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5 ways to improve worker safety

When it comes to on-the-job safety, it can be easy for business owners to avoid establishing procedures and guidelines until an unfortunate incident forces them to do so. However, with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting 172 injury-related occupational fatalities in Illinois in 2013, it is critical that state businesses make efforts to enhance worker safety.

While the Illinois Department of Public Health notes that safety incidents are more likely to occur in certain industries than others and that some types of injuries are more prevalent than others, all employed residents face some degree of risk upon entering the workplace. Here is a look at five key ways to enhance on-the-job safety in Illinois, courtesy of a workers compensation attorney in Algonquin.

Hire with care

When businesses start to excel and the demand for new staff grows, it can be tempting to hire quickly and without due care to ensure competence. Hiring based on need rather than competence, however, is an easy way to enhance a business’s risk of an onsite accident. Incompetent employees are more likely to suffer at-work injuries, so carefully screening all candidates, whether through background checks, reference checks or other methods is essential for improving worker safety. Furthermore, taking the time to make wise hiring decisions in the first place may minimize turnover, resulting in a more knowledgeable and experienced workforce.

Properly assess workplace risks

Business owners need to be well-versed in the types of incidents and injuries most likely to occur at their respective jobsites. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration notes that all employed individuals have a right to a safe work environment that is free from any known dangers. The likelihood of certain injuries and events occurring varies by business type, geography and other parameters, so it is essential that employees and management alike are aware of where risks are most prevalent. For example, a manufacturing plant may rely largely on the use of heavy machinery, or a house-painting company may regularly have its employees working high up off the ground. Hospitals, hospitals offices and other health care-based businesses may worry more about maintaining a sterile environment to reduce the spread of airborne diseases or pathogens. By assessing workplace risk from the outset, business owners are better able to prevent them and train their workers to do the same. 

Combat hazards immediately

Equally as important as learning to identify the risks of a particular work environment is working to eliminate them immediately and to the fullest extent possible. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that transportation incidents were the most common cause of workplace fatalities in Illinois in 2013. More specifically, accidents on roadways involving motorized land vehicles were particularly common. Thus, a workers compensation attorney in Algonquin would advise that businesses that regularly transport goods or people from one place to another enhance their driver training programs.  These businesses should also ensure employees are using safe, capable vehicles while at work. Combatting hazards can be as simple as ensuring spills and leaks are mopped up immediately to reduce the risk of slips and falls or as complex as working to reduce employee exposure to toxins in the workplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that any positive changes to improve safety in the work environment benefit all employees, so identifying risks and then working to eliminate them is essential for enhancing overall worker safety.

Create an all-encompassing safety plan

Some businesses utilize a number of different practices to improve worker safety, such as maintaining access control or establishing incident-reporting procedures and guidelines. The CDC recommends taking things a step further by integrating all safety aspects into one single, comprehensive program. The agency reports that the more integrated and comprehensive a safety program is, the better the chances it will be effective. Furthermore, a workers compensation attorney in Algonquin knows strong safety programs take into account all aspects of employee health and safety, including behavioral, mental and physical health and wellness.

Provide proper equipment

Businesses that expect employees to take certain precautions, such as wearing protective eyewear or gloves, must make these items readily available to employees. Some employees focus largely on getting a job done fast, and this can result in cutting corners or avoiding donning protective equipment simply to get a job done more quickly. Opting for productivity over safety, however, can lead to catastrophe. Making safety gear readily available for all employees is essential, and doing so will ultimately cost a business far less than, say, trauma surgery in the event of an on-the-job incident. OHSA offers guidelines for general safety standards as well as those for specific industries. For example, any workplace where hazardous or toxic substances are present must make safety data sheets readily available to all workers. Regardless of industry, businesses have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment for all workers and this involves the use of effective safety equipment.

OHSA offers a number of resources to help U.S. businesses and employees improve on-the-job safety while minimizing the risk of workplace accidents, including a guide for employers titled Essential Elements of Effective Workplace Programs and Policies for Improving Worker Health and Wellbeing. While the aforementioned five tips offer a general overview of physical and organizational efforts to improve worker safety, those seeking a more in-depth analysis may find it within the OSHA document.

Regrettably, not all workplace accidents are avoidable, even when safety procedures and guidelines are firmly established and followed. Those who have suffered an on-the-job accident may want to contact an attorney.

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