Most companies work hard to comply with workplace health and safety regulations. However, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regularly receives reports of injury, psychological trauma, and death due to negligence or ignorance. Management and staff in all industries need to be alert to signs of inadequate health and safety.
1. Poor Housekeeping Procedures
Slips and trips cause some of the most common workplace injuries. They are usually caused by poor housekeeping such as:
• Dirty, slippery, oily floors and stairs
• Ill-fitting carpeting
• Blocked aisles with trailing wires and cables.
2. Improper Handling of Hazardous Substances
The regulations for handling hazardous substances are covered by Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH). Illness from chemicals, fumes, dusts, vapours, gases and biological agents can result from:
• Lack of personal protective equipment
• Inadequate ventilation
• Inadequate enclosures around equipment that produces contaminants.
3. Work Equipment in Poor Repair or Misused
The lack of regular maintenance and repairs for equipment results in increased safety risks. Problems include frayed cords, missing safety guards on moving parts, and use of equipment for another purpose.
4. Loud Noise
Continual high levels of noise create a physical discomfort and even injury for employees. This noise can be a distraction from the job at hand, and an interference with operational communications causing risk of injury in using equipment and tools.
5. Repetitive Motion
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is caused by performing the same motion over and over again. This is a common problem with people who work on computers or on assembly lines.
Fatigue is often evident in a person’s irritability or obvious tiredness. Chronic fatigue is a safety issue, especially in a workplace with equipment. Sometimes this is due to long hours of work or shift work.
7. Workplace Violence
The HSE defines violence related to the workplace as: ‘Any incident in which a person is abused, threatened, or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work.’ This can be seen in:
• One time incidents such as attacks by a disgruntled employee or robber
• Persistent patterns of behaviour such as bullying, sexual harassment, or even physical abuse.
8. Lack of Signage
Signage is important for identifying emergency exits, warnings about dangerous operations or supplies, and for denying access. Good signage is appropriately placed, a good size, and easy to understand. Usually, there are both words and graphics.
HSE report identifies functional illiteracy as a risk factor for workplace safety. Signs of it are evident when employees ignore cautionary signage or do not follow written procedures for operating equipment or handling hazardous substances. Management sometimes does not understand the health and safety implications.
10. Poor Design
The HSE cautions that poor design of a facility and workstations can create health problems and accidents. Common problems are:
• Inefficient flow of operations so employees do not have adequate space for using equipment or moving between work areas
• Failure to follow ergonomic principles when designing work stations
• Stairs with unsuitable handrails and uneven steps
• Lighting that causes eyestrain and risks in operating machinery.
Management in all workplaces must comply with Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. This means developing and implementing a health and safety policy. It also requires ongoing diligence in identifying and correcting poor health and safety practices in the workplace.