Keeping every office and workplace safe and accident-free should be a goal for all employees. A newsletter can be a simple space to remind workers of what they can do to contribute to that goal.
Below is a list of the most important—but often forgotten or ignored—tips for how to keep safe in different types of workplaces, starting with general tips that apply to most industries. Scroll through to find the list that’s most relevant to you, and choose a tip or two to share with your employees today.
- Clear the exit paths. Make sure nothing blocks the way between workspaces and emergency exits. Never prop open doors with boxes that people might trip over when trying to leave quickly. Make sure there are clear paths to fire extinguishers and other emergency equipment, too.
- Know where your first aid kits are. You never know when you’ll need them. Take a moment every few months to remind yourself of the first aid basics (or learn them for the first time). Consider becoming CPR and first aid certified with a short training course, if you aren’t already, and renew your certification every couple of years. Remember never to provide first aid to someone unless you’re confident in your skills and sure they want your help.
- Be aware of the emergency procedures for the space you are in. Fires and tornadoes don’t stop at the door waiting for you to read the manual. Think about the most likely type of accidents and disasters for your industry and location. Set reminders to yourself to review the plans for them every month or two.
- Lift with the legs. Remember this any time you need to pick up something weighing more than a few pounds. Back strain is no laughing matter, so bend your knees, keep your back straight, and use both hands. When carrying a heavy load, move your feet where you want to go rather than leaning your back in the direction of travel. Don’t feel bad asking for help if you need it, and use a dolly or other machine whenever possible.
- Step ladders stop suffering. They are the safest way to reach tall shelves or other high places. Even if one is not available, avoid stacking boxes or climbing on rolling chairs as these are very likely to result in a fall or injury. Ask a taller coworker for help or use sturdy furniture
- Electrical cords must be handled with care to avoid fire hazards. Do not fasten them to floors, walls, or other fixtures in a way that might damage them, such as stapling. Do not place them under carpets or through windows unless you know that they are designed for these uses.
- Remember to store heavy objects closer to the floor and only stack lighter objects on top of them to prevent falls.
- Alert supervisors or appropriate coworkers immediately to any safety risks you see that you can’t or shouldn’t fix yourself. Perhaps you notice some equipment leaking and you notify your building’s engineer. Or maybe you realize the boxes that keep appearing in a walkway are being placed there by a particular coworker, so you ask your manager to speak with her about it. Whatever the case, make sure you say something to someone with authority if you see something dangerous.
- Winter usually means slippery ice and hard packed snow, but it doesn’t have to mean dangerous falls. As silly as it may feel, waddle like a penguin on the worst winter days to make it between buildings and vehicles without getting hurt. Keep your feel flat and take slow, short steps. Make sure you only carry what you know you won’t drop, and if you don’t want to wear snow boots or other weather-safe shoes all day, at least bring them with you for your trips outdoors.
- Hydration, hydration, hydration. Drinking water is always important, but it is especially important in summer, and especially if you work outdoors. Your body can become overheated quickly in these conditions, as it can indoors if the building is not well-ventilated or air conditioned, or if machinery produces a lot of excess heat. Get a nice reusable bottle and find a cool, (ideally) filtered water source. Rather than drinking large quantities at once, try to take regular sips throughout the day as this better distributes water to your body. If your employer provides emergency overheating remedies, like popsicles or cold showers, know where to find and operate those, and review signs of overheating.
These may include construction sites, medical centers, factories, warehouses, or anywhere else where workers are frequently in contact with dangerous materials or conditions.
- Use it correctly, keep it clean. Tools and machines can be delicate and dangerous, so make sure they are properly cleaned and prepared for functioning each time you use them. Don’t use equipment for anything other than its intended purpose. Misuse of equipment is the most frequent cause of injury in workplaces.
- If you repeat the same tedious motion for a long period of time, take short breaks and maintain good posture.
- When flammable or other hazardous materials are not needed, make sure that they are stored safely out of reach. Clean spills immediately, wear protective clothing any time you are working with dangerous substances, and change clothes immediately if contamination occurs.
- Watch your tracks. Be sure you are not bringing any hazardous material from one area into another on your feet. If you notice this is a continuous problem in your worksite, ask your supervisor for mats or another method of cleaning between areas.
- Rules are meant to be followed. If you are required to shave or cover facial hair, tie back long hair, or wear particular clothing items and footwear, remember that those requirements are in place for your safety. Otherwise, hair and clothing may become caught in machinery or cause other dangerous situations.
When editing this tip for your newsletter, you may include specific requirements for your workplace that employees are often caught disobeying.
- You only get one face. Be sure to use eye protection and dust masks when duty calls for them. It only takes one stray spark or splinter to cause serious damage.
- Cell phones are for emergencies only. Your job requires your full attention to avoid accidents, and cell phones only interfere with that most of the time. Also, you are likely to damage your phone or transfer dangerous material to it when working with substances like raw meat or chemicals.
- Ensure that you have the proper training or certifications required to operate any machinery before doing so. Forklifts and cardboard balers can become deadly weapons when operated by unqualified personnel.
- Be aware of your surroundings, and do your part so stay safe. Follow posted signs regarding rules and safety at all times. Look out for signs relating to power lines and hot machinery. Be careful of hot, high pressure steam and other gas lines, as they can cause severe damage, according to this link: https://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2665/can-high-pressure-steam-cut-a-body-in-half/.
- Posture makes perfect. Ensure that your desk space fosters ergonomic positioning. Feet should touch the floor or a foot rest while you are fully seated in your chair, not leaning forward or on the edge. Center your head over your neck and shoulders, rest your elbows at your sides, and make your wrists flat. If possible, your keyboard should be on a tray lower than your desk so your shoulders can be relaxed while you look at your screen, and your mouse should always be next to your keyboard. Use a document holder that holds your material upright next to your monitor when referring to printed copy as you type.
- If you’re frequently on the phone or your calls last a while, consider a headset. You probably need your hands for multitasking during the call, but holding a handset between your head and shoulder takes a toll on muscles that often hold a lot of tension anyway.
- Tidy up your space. Reduce clutter and clean spills immediately to decrease the risk of falls, cuts, or other injuries. Doing so has the added benefit of keeping you more focused and reducing stress. Do your part in the rest of the office, too, to make sure that boxes and other objects aren’t obstructing walkways.
- Stand up, stretch, and take walks. Sitting for eight hours at a time isn’t just a lack of exercise; it can pose immediate health risks. After an hour or two of work, get out of your chair for a short workout routine or a stroll around the building.
- Focus forward. Don’t read papers or look at electronics while walking, especially in tight spaces where you might collide with others.
- Close your drawers. Make sure file cabinets and desk drawers are not overly full so that they are closed properly when not in use. That way, no one can trip, hit a knee, stub a toe, or get cut on a sharp corner.
- Reduce eye strain and glare. Monitors should be about two feet away from your face and slightly below eye level. If they are across from a window, decrease glare with blinds and shades or by turning the screen away. Increase the text size or zoom in on the page, and let your doctor know that you spend a lot of time working on a computer so they can prescribe you the proper lenses if necessary. On your breaks, look at something farther away than a screen.
- Greet each customer, looking them in the eye as they enter the store. This helps you keep an idea of everyone who is there while also helping you provide excellent service. It also lets potential wrongdoers know you have seen them, which may prevent them from trying to sneak around.
- Be sure to follow store policy on locking doors on time, emptying garbage with a certain number of employees in the building, and counting cash drawers with others around. Policies like these are for your protection, and if something bad does happen, you don’t want to be blamed for it because you weren’t following protocol.
- Know where to find emergency numbers, and regularly plan for what you will do according to store policy if there is attempted theft or armed robbery. This way you are never caught off guard.
- Be good to your feet. You are probably on them all day, so find some shoes or insoles you like and replace them when they get worn out. The benefit will be worth the cost!
- Slip resistant soles are a necessity. Floors are hard to keep spot-free during busy hours, and you’re likely to have wet spots even if spills are addressed immediately. Invest in a nice pair of non-slip shoes, keep them clean, and wear them every shift.
- Germs aren’t on the menu. As much pressure as you may feel to be at work because of understaffing or financial need, you cannot come to work if you are sick. This is especially true of anything involving the stomach, but even bad colds can be dangerous. They cause drowsiness and other symptoms that distract you around hot and sharp cookware. Stay home until you are well enough to keep yourself and others safe.
- Use heat protection. Don’t expect your skin to become impervious to hot surfaces just because you touch them frequently. Use oven gloves in the kitchen and towels to carry extra hot plates. Be aware of warming lamps, burners, and anything else that may be a heat risk. Treat burns immediately with burn cream from the first aid kit or by running cold water over them for five minutes or more. Do not use ice or butter, as these may cause shock or worsen the effect.
- Cut out cuts. Don’t skip the safety gloves when using sharp knives. Avoid handling broken glass with bare hands; just sweep it up. Although it may seem quicker, the risk of injury isn’t worth the few seconds saved.
- Clean carefully. Know the contents of any chemical cleaners you use. Be sure to find out what surfaces they can be used on safely and where they should never be used. Find out if there are other chemicals used within your facility that should not be mixed with them.
- Remember not to operate electrical appliances near water. Don’t use appliances that have damaged power cords, missing or bent prongs, or that show other signs of damage. Never force a three-pronged plug into a two-pronged outlet.
- Don’t leave alone. Restaurants are often open late, and potential thieves realize that servers leave with cash in hand. They may wait in the parking lot, hiding behind vehicles or fixtures, to attempt to take your earnings. When you get to work, be sure your car is locked, and when you leave, check to make sure no one is hiding in or around it. Walk out with another server, and don’t have your cash in sight.
- Decorate responsibly. Teachers know a good classroom includes plenty of inspirational and educational materials visible around the room, but make sure that your decorations don’t obstruct any exit signs or emergency information. Don’t hang anything from sprinklers, light fixtures, or in such a way that doors or windows may become inoperable.
- Organize shelves with student height in mind. Objects your students often need and are allowed frequent access to should be within their reach to avoid accidents. More dangerous materials may need to be kept higher or locked away depending on students’ maturity level.
- Know safety procedures for every area of the building and grounds that you may visit. Sure, you spend most of your time in your own classroom, so it’s most likely that you’ll be there if an emergency strikes, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only place you should be prepared. If you take students to the computer lab, library, outdoor areas, etc., you should know exactly what you’ll do if there is a fire, tornado, intruder, or any other dangerous situation. When you have scheduled drills for such situations, don’t avoid leaving the room. Follow through with your regularly scheduled activities or even add a trip in to add a challenge.
- Participate in the safety measures implemented by administration. Strategies will not work if the whole team isn’t on board. If you are asked to watch the hallway for students or adults who shouldn’t be there, take your turn to do so. If you’re asked to sign in and out, be in or out of the building at a certain time, or keep certain doors closed, comply with those policies. You may not agree with them and there may actually be better ways to do things, but policies and decisions must be made, and it’s better to have everyone on the same page than have each staff member trying to do what they think is best.