5 tips to identify and minimise risks in the workplace
A normal day at work usually starts and ends without any misfortune or mishaps, but that shouldn’t fool you into assuming that workplace hazards aren’t present, or that they don’t carry some extremely serious risks. Not all work hazards carry the same degree of risk. While high risk hazards tend to receive increased attention, there are also typically quite a few low risk hazards in any given workplace.
Whatever the industry in which you work and the risks attached to your particular activities, there are some general rules that any leader or employee needs to play by in order to minimise risk and create a safe workplace for all. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to workplace safety, so each and every risk must be identified before it can be managed effectively. Here are some tips.
Learn from the past
If close shaves or accidents have happened in the past, it is absolutely crucial that you not let history repeat itself. Analyse past experiences with risks to figure out exactly why they happened, and then devise a clear, specific method to stop the same thing from occurring again.
Don’t forget to schedule regular checks to avoid repeats even if you have updated your safety processes. The fact that an accident happened in the past indicates vulnerability, so it is important to be vigilant.
Make sure everyone is aware of the activities taking place
The larger an organisation grows and the more employees it hires, the harder it is to keep everyone apprised of what their coworkers are doing or what activities are taking place. Unfortunately, safety measures can only be effective if every member of an organisation knows what is going on.
This is particularly crucial in intrinsically hazardous industries like construction and mining. For instance, if there is a maximum number of people that can safely work in a particular area, all employees will need to be familiar with and participate in a procedure to determine when the maximum load has been exceeded, and to be aware of who is supposed to be where at any one time.
The use of temporary site protection such as temporary barriers, fencing, protective boarding or even full containment zones using zip wall products can be extremely effective in clearly marking out areas where hazards exist and help reduce avoidable accidents.
Look for potential hazards and document the risks
Without an official documentation process, there is no reliable and systematic way to deal with risks.
For instance, hazards such as excessive sound, falling objects and moving machinery are all risk factors in the workplace, and it’s important to recognise them officially as such instead of letting employees silently deal with them on a daily basis.
Take the hazard of excessive sound, which is often present in particularly noisy industries such as event venues, large auditoriums or areas that host crowds such as restaurants. If the risks it presents are officially documented, the organisation can then take steps to mitigate the dangers, such as by installing the appropriate acoustics in order to reduce the risk of their employees suffering from hearing damage.
Wear appropriate attire to prevent accidents and injury
Many sites are so hazardous that it becomes necessary for any employee who enters to don safety gear. For instance, construction workers are required to wear hard hats and boots when they’re on-site.
Other jobs require the use of special attire or gear because of the risks inherent in the activity being undertaken. For instance, a professional motorcycle racer has to wear a full set of gear including leathers, boots, gloves and a full face helmet.
Unfortunately, employees can and do flout the rules at times. It is up to the leaders of an organisation to ensure rules regarding the appropriate attire are adhered to at all times. This means regular checks should be carried out and a zero-tolerance attitude to breaking the rules should be taken.
Have a plan for reducing the risks one by one
If your workplace is full of safety hazards that haven’t been adequately addressed, trying to deal with them all at once can be daunting. Devise a sound plan that works to identify and then tackle each safety hazard in turn.
It is always best to begin by identifying the highest risk safety hazard, and then work to address it before moving on to the next one. In this way, you avoid being overwhelmed by having too many things to deal with at once. Creating a safe workplace isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.
The sad truth is that completely risk-free workplaces do not exist, at least not in this world. This is especially true if you work in a high risk industry such as warehousing, or one that involves the use of heavy machinery. Unfortunately, managing risk is not a one-time task that can be finished and disposed of. It is an on-going process that needs to be reviewed and updated from time to time. Empower your team by teaching them how to identify risks and putting in place workplace policies designed to protect them. They deserve nothing less.
Anna O’Toole is a Senior PR and Digital Analyst and specialises in working with clients in industries such as business, construction and hospitality and she enjoys sharing her insights on these areas of expertise.