Health and safety in the workplace has come a long way over the years. Long gone are the days of careless ignorance. Now, openly promoted, discussed and taken very seriously, the safety of employees is a priority of any good business.

However, 2017/2018 saw an estimated 71,062 non-fatal injuries occur in the workplace – a staggering figure, made worse as it refers only to reported cases. Sadly, 144 fatalities were also reported due to workplace incidents.

The improvement of safety, no matter what the environment, is vital if those figures are to change for the better.

We’ve pulled together our top 10 Health and Safety Practices to promote a safer workplace. We hope you find them useful and remember, safety first.

1. Report Hazards

The importance of reporting of hazards in the workplace can not be understated. This is especially so when it comes to witnessing risky behaviour in team members. It’s rare that people intentionally flout safety practices – when it does happen, it can be due to complacency, rushing and distraction.

But no matter if it’s a spill, damaged racking, dangerous behaviour or even potential problems, it’s vital to report it. Not only will doing so keep everyone safe, but it’ll help the business to analyse where repairs may be needed, additional training is required or more caution should be practiced.

Sometimes, reporting isn’t enough. If there’s a chance that someone might get injured if you leave the scene, it’s vital to take steps to ensure no one gets hurt. Here’s a quick example;

10 Health & Safety Practices

“Kevin is a pick and packer. Whilst gathering the goods for his next order, he notices that several tins of paint have fallen off the racking and have spilled all over the floor. Not only that, but he notices that where they fell, the racking is bent. It looks like something collided with it and now it’s become damaged.

Knowing that he should report the racking and get the paint cleared up, Kevin calls over another member of his team, Allison. He asks her to remain by the paint whilst he reports the damage and gathers cleaning supplies, to ensure that no one slips or trails through the paint.

As a result, when he returns, his warehouse manager is aware of the damage and has put the appropriate actions in place and the paint is cleaned up.”

If whoever had caused the damage had reported it when it happened, then goods wouldn’t have become damaged and the hazard would have been repaired/fixed before anyone had gotten hurt. Thankfully, Kevin didn’t just leave the scene unguarded, otherwise someone could have had an accident.

Reporting hazards is everyone’s responsibility.

2. Good Housekeeping

10 Health & Safety Practices

A clean and tidy work environment can make a massive difference.

Although it may seem like common sense to clear up after yourself, when you’re in a busy environment and are trying to keep on top of everything, sometimes it can seem like too much of a bother. It’s human to think ‘I’ll sort it out later’, but the truth it, cleaning up as you go will save you time – and could save someone from seriously hurting themselves.

Whether it’s mopping up water from where rain has come through the delivery doors (and leaving a wet floor sign), labelling hazardous goods as they come in, keeping the floors clear and clean, picking up empty boxes or even as simple as putting equipment away when its not being used, small actions can make a massive difference.

If you have a large warehouse and only a broom and mop, it can be disheartening, but the sweeping and cleaning of floors can lower risk of tripping, slipping, equipment damage and improve productivity (as no one has to stop what they’re doing to clear a path).

Tidy workbenches can mean the correct tools and equipment can be found and used without incident, as well as allowing other members of staff to safety work close by.

Clutter can also have an impact on the mind. It’s long been theorised that if an environment is untidy, it can be more difficult to focus and, in turn, can cause stress. Stress in turn can cause people to make mistakes. It’s easier if things are clean and tidy, don’t you think?

3. Wear the Correct Safety Gear

There’s protective gear for the simplest of jobs to the more dangerous ones. Handling goods? Gloves will help save your hands. Work where there’s a potential of falling debris? A hard hat could save your life.

Ensuring that all employees have access to the correct safety gear at all times is vital. Working in a warehouse with material handling equipment, such as forklifts, means that good quality, clean high visibility jackets are a must, as well as steel toe capped boots. But this doesn’t just apply to staff – visitors as well must adhere to safety practices when it comes to safety gear.

A good example of this is a recent visit we undertook to one of our customers. Mindful that we would be entering an area where food was prepared, we had to wear hairnets. Not just that, but we also required lab coats, steel toe capped boots, hard hats and hi visibility jackets.

Wearing the correct gear extends to all areas of the business. If you’re welding, you have to protect your eyes, if you work around loud machinery, you need to protect your ears. If you work in a toxic environment or are dealing with chemicals, you have to protect your lungs and skin.

4. Safe Operating

A vast majority of workplaces have some form of equipment; whether its cleaning equipment, material handling equipment, construction equipment or something as basic as a pedestrian pallet truck.

The fact is, no matter how simple or basic equipment might be, it’s vital that it’s used with care and awareness, not only for the safety of the person operating it, but also the people surrounding it, other equipment, structures and goods. Operating equipment requires;

Forklifts are an excellent example of the importance of safe operation. Over 1,000 people are injured each year in forklift related incidents and often these will be as a result of a lack of one or more of the above list.

If a forklift operator isn’t concentrating, then they could easily strike a pedestrian, racking or part of the building. Likewise, if they’re distracted or stressed, they could speed and potentially overturn the forklift on a corner or ramp. Not only could there be masses of damage, but people could easily be killed.

Refresher training can help to keep your operators on top of safety practices when operating equipment. Regular maintenance will keep your material handling equipment in tip top shape so that it can perform at its best. Just as your equipment needs to be cared for, it’s vital to observe your operators’ wellbeing; if they’re unwell, they’re distracted and could make a costly mistake.

Safe equipment operation should be at the forefront of a safe workplace.

5. Emergency Awareness

Thankfully, a vast majority of us will never face an emergency situation whilst at work. But in the unlikely event that one does occur, it’s vital to know what to do in times of confusion and panic. There are five things every employee should know:

  • Emergency exits
  • How to use a fire extinguisher
  • Where fire alarms are located
  • Who the First Aider is
  • Where any lifesaving equipment is located
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Fire

Frequent fire safety training can help your employees remain calm and collected should they be faced with the threat of fire. Fire alarm testing should occur at least once a week to ensure they’re working, with a fire drill at least once a month so any new employees know what to do and where to go.

Whilst it’s rarely encouraged to attempt to tackle a blaze, ensuring your employees know what type of fire extinguisher is best suited to what fire could save their lives.

Medical

Having a qualified first aider on site at all times can be vital if an injury or incident does occur. Not only will they be able to administer first aid until a paramedic arrives but also be able to relay any information that professionals may need.

First aiders are also able to advise what the best course of action is to take with more minor injuries, such as small burns and scrapes. Every member of staff should know who the first aiders are and the information should be displayed throughout your site, just in case.

If you have a defibrillator located on your premises, it’s important for everyone to know where it’s located and have an understanding of how to use it.

6. Appropriate Storage

10 Health & Safety Practices

As with many of the points on this list, it’s a broad topic. Appropriate storage can apply to storage of:

  • Goods In
  • Equipment
  • Tools
  • Chemicals and paints

It can also apply to correct labelling and documenting of the location of the goods you’re storing. Not only is this vital to smooth production, as goods are easy to find, safer to handle and people know what they’re looking for, but it can also help to eradicate avoidable incidents.

Goods In

The correct labelling, storage and inventory of all goods in helps to ensure that pickers and packers have an easier time, but it also protects your employees. Some goods may be temperature sensitive, so may require refrigeration, other goods maybe too heavy to be stored high up. By profiling individual products, you can keep the goods in excellent condition and avoid your employees straining themselves.

Equipment

Inappropriate storage of material handling equipment such as forklifts and scissor lifts could not only be costly, but could also result in damage that could make them dangerous to use.

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By having an area where equipment can be safely stored where it’s out of the way and unlikely to be knocked or damaged, you’re guaranteeing a longer working life for your equipment, and your employees.

Tools

It’s common knowledge that tools, even when powered down, unplugged and seemingly innocuous, can cause a lot of damage. Whether tools belong to individual employees or to the business as a whole, it’s important that when not in use, they’re stored appropriately and safely; rather than left on a workbench where they could fall or catch someone.

It’s vital that tools are not left running unattended and are completely powered down when stored.

Chemicals & Paints

The correct labelling and storage of chemicals and paints, especially in industries such as manufacturing and production is absolutely vital. Not only could wrong labelling cause incorrect chemicals to be mixed together, but could also cause people to take less care when handling them.

Chemicals and paints must be stored in temperature-controlled areas and away from other goods. It’s wise to keep chemicals in a locked area where there’s no chance of them accidentally being moved or handled.

7. Clear Communication

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Fantastic communication can be the difference between a struggling business and a successful one. Employees feel more comfortable talking to people in authority, there’s little confusion surrounding job roles and tasks at hand, people know what’s expected of them and how to do it safely.

This is also important when it comes to reporting hazards, it enables confidence that any incident or observation reported will be taken seriously and not ignored or put on the back-burner.

Clear internal communications can also help establish and ingrain safety practices. If an incident occurs, it’s vital everyone knows so they can avoid the area, aid in clean up and learn from what happened. Ignoring issues or sweeping them under a rug only results in history repeating itself and a lack of trust.

8. Up to Date Training

Training is vital to safely practice any job role. From correct posture at a desk, to manual handling, vehicle operation, the list goes on. Not only does training help build valuable knowledge and experience, refresher training over time can help build decision making skills, leadership and responsibility.

Policies, methods and safety practices within industries change constantly. This is why its important that all employees go through regular training to keep them up to date.

When a business operates in a capacity that involves physical labour and moving equipment, training can also help build a respect between those operating equipment and pedestrians. This keeps everyone safe and aware of the dangers.

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9. Goods Handling

10 Health & Safety Practices

Manual handling, carriage by forklift and the loading and unloading of goods all come with some form of risk, but can all be undertaken safely and without incident.

Manual Handling

Over the past few years, there have been around half a million reported cases of work-related musculoskeletal disorder. Manual movement of goods, repetitive actions and awkward positions (such as reaching and twisting) are often the cause. To help prevent injuries, frequent training can help raise awareness, as well as promoting a ‘buddy’ culture wherein asking for help with the movement of heavier goods is actively encouraged.

It’s also important to assess where additional equipment could be utilised to help reduce the need for employees to strain themselves.

Transport/Carriage of Goods by Equipment

The movement of goods is necessary for a great deal of businesses. Whether it’s transporting them from one place to another in manufacture, sending them out for delivery, or storing them for production or destruction, there’s often material handling equipment involved.

Whilst the movement of goods may seem simple enough, it has to be properly wrapped, lifted and carried. There are plenty of videos on the internet about forklifts raising pallets of goods, only for the products to fall off and break, or for towers of pallets to collapse because the weight is too much.

The correct equipment also has to be used for the appropriate good; a 2.5t forklift won’t be able to move a 10m long, heavy pipe safely (if at all). If specialist equipment is required for safe transportation, it’s worth the investment.

10. Don’t Cut Corners

Businesses are under constant strain to keep up with demand. This can cause a massive amount of strain on employees who often do whatever they can to keep production moving. Sometimes this means extra hours or extra staff, but sometimes it can mean taking a few shortcuts to reach the end result.

It’s important that employees are educated to never cut corners, no matter how tempting or small they might be. Not only could rushing compromise the safety of employees, but it could also mean the finished product, event or movement could go awry. From not putting on the correct gear to carry out a job to speeding in a forklift, not securing goods properly to failing to report a hazard because it would mean stopping production, this is perhaps the most important safety practice of all.

A safe environment is a simple one, it requires understanding and commitment by all involved and is achievable for every business.