5 Common Workplace Safety Hazards

National Safety Council selected four of the following five safety themes to review during the month of June 2017. With summer underway, we’ve also added heat safety to the list.

Let’s delve into these five themes – and keep the workplace a safe and productive environment for all!

1. Slips and Falls

Slips and falls cause ten percent of accidental deaths. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries – including concussions.

Be aware of the common reasons for slips and falls, and make appropriate workplace repairs as needed:

  • Keep the workplace clean and tidy. Store materials and supplies in the appropriate storage areas.
  • Clean up or report spills right away. Even minor spills can be very dangerous.
  • Keep passageways and aisles clear of clutter and well lit.
  • Repair or replace stairs or handrails that are loose or broken. Falls on stairways disable more than 33,000 people each year.

2. Fatigue

The Mayo Clinic describes fatigue as a nearly constant state of weariness that develops over time and reduces energy, motivation, and concentration. The estimated annual injury incidence rate is 7.89 per 100 workers for people who sleep less than five hours per day, compared with 2.27 per 100 workers among people who sleep between seven and eight hours, according to data from the National Health Interview Survey.

Encourage cooperation among employees to avert fatigue:

  • Educate workers on the importance of sleep
  • Remind workers to stretch muscles to increase circulation and reduce tiredness
  • Promote regular hydration to increase alertness
  • Foster mindfulness meditation to control stress-related fatigue
  • Provide “micro breaks” to allow workers to move about and change concentration

See OSHA’s shift guide for additional information and ideas on work schedules.

3. Violence

The proactive way to stay safe from workplace violence is through planning. Show employees that you value your employees’ well-being by training them about common red flags and practicing drills so that everyone can look out for one another.

OSHA offers indicators that may point toward an increased risk in worker violence, including:

  • Sudden, persistent complaining about unfair treatment
  • Blaming others for problems
  • Change in behavior or decline in job performance
  • Stated hope for something bad to happen to supervisor or co-worker
  • Increase in absenteeism
  • Refusal to accept criticism about work performance
  • Inability to manage feelings; outbursts of swearing or slamming doors

Consider bringing in law enforcement experts to help you design a custom violence prevention program. Professionals will educate your workforce to empower them and protect them from harm.

4. Ergonomics

Ergonomics is an applied science that coordinates the design of devices, systems, and physical working conditions with the capacities and requirements of the worker. Common considerations in the workplace include:

  • Chair: adjust the chair to a position that’s comfortable and doesn’t strain muscles or joints.
  • Computer keyboard and mouse: allow the forearms, hands and wrists to be parallel to the floor at rest.
  • Monitor and documents: raise or lower the computer monitor so the top of the screen is at or slightly lower than eye level.
  • Accessories: allow easy access to regularly-used accessories such as headsets, staplers, and other office equipment.

Check these office worker ergonomics for reference to office furniture and equipment.

5. Heat Stress

With the heat of summer, now is an especially good time to review heat-related safety precautions.

Avoid heat stress

  • Gradually build up hours spent working in heat
  • Don’t overexert yourself; work at a steady pace
  • Take regular breaks in cool places
  • Wear light, loose clothing and a hat
  • Apply sunscreen at regular intervals; sunburn affects the body’s ability to cool itself
  • Drink water steadily before and during working in the heat
  • Replace salt lost from sweating by drinking fruit juice or sports drinks
  • Avoid hot foods and drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine

Take action in response to heat stress

Heat Cramps: Heat cramps are muscle spasms that usually affect the legs or abdominal muscles, often after physical work. Workers with pain or spasms in the abdomen, arms or legs should not return to work for a few hours. Instead, they should:

  • Sit or lie down in the shade
  • Drink cool water or a sports drink
  • Stretch affected muscles
  • Seek medical attention if they have heart problems or if the cramps don’t subside within an hour

Heat Exhaustion: Symptoms of heat exhaustion are similar to those of the flu and can include severe thirst, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Other signs of heat exhaustion include profuse sweating, clammy or ashen skin, dizziness, rapid pulse, and slightly elevated body temperature.

Attend to workers suffering heat exhaustion by:

  • Moving them to a shaded or air-conditioned area
  • Loosening their clothes and applying cool compresses
  • Having them drink cool water slowly
  • Elevating their feet 8-12 inches

Heat Stroke: Someone experiencing heatstroke will have extremely hot skin and an altered mental state ranging from slight confusion to coma. Heatstroke can occur when the ability to sweat fails and body temperature rises quickly. It can be deadly.

Immediately attend to workers suffering heat stroke by:

  • Calling for emergency medical help right away
  • Moving the person into a half-sitting position in the shade
  • Using cool water to soak the person’s clothes and body
  • Don’t give the heat stroke victim anything to drink

Preventive measures are the best defense against heat stress. For more information, visit this prevention page.

There you have it, five safety issues to keep top of mind during National Safety Month. Better yet, help your employees practice them throughout the year. A safe workplace develops trust among workers and boosts productivity.

Every 4 minutes, someone dies from something that is 100 percent preventable. National Safety Month is our call to action to establish and implement the best safety measures for our workplace.


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