Occupational Safety and Health Week

According to Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970, every employee has the right to know what their potential workplace hazards are. But how do you know what types of hazards you should be really concerned about? This week we’re celebrating the North American Occupational Safety and Health Week by sharing some tips for considering the safety of your workplace.

When thinking about the safety of your workplace, think about which hazards are temporary issues that can easily be remedied, which ones are a sign that training may not be up to par, leaving employees at risk, and which ones are hazards that can’t be remedied? In this article we’ll tell you how to assess those risks and what they can mean for you.

Temporary Workplace Safety Issues

Some workplace hazards can be dangerous, but can also be remedied rather simply. Things like a spilled mop bucket or a piece of equipment that is faulty can be a safety hazards, and can at times be quite dangerous, but are anticipated hazards of regular business.

When you are considering how safe your workplace is, consider how these situations are dealt with. Is equipment well maintained to avoid potential problems? Are employees trained to place signs around spills? Are there up to date first aid kits and well documented emergency protocols?

Temporary issues can cause injury and work stress, but are often avoidable. If these temporary issues are not completely avoidable, learn if there are processes in place to make sure that employees are protected and able to seek medical help quickly in case an injury occurs. A workplace that considers their employees valuable assets will be aware that not every temporary safety hazard, workplace stress or employee injury can be anticipated, but they will want to mitigate damages and make sure that employees can easily access assistance if a hazard becomes dangerous.

The Importance of Proper Training

Unfortunately, a lack of training and safety precautions can lead to a very hazardous work environment. Poor training and procedural issues can cause ergonomic hazards from incorrect form when lifting, which can cause long-term damage, to some of the leading causes of death in workplaces, by being struck by an object or being caught in between equipment.

Once your employer has let you know about what hazards you may encounter in your workplace, make sure they are also providing employees with correct training on how to deal with those hazards. If you aren’t being provided with this information or aren’t being trained in how to deal with hazardous equipment or material, you have a right to contact the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) at the United States Department of Labor.

Unavoidable Workplace Hazards

Unfortunately, not all workplace hazards are temporary issues or can be easily remedied through training. Sometimes your workplace itself may be hazardous. Physical hazards, like prolonged exposure to extreme noise or temperature, can cause issues later in life, as can chemical hazards like exposure to asbestos or other chemicals. For people who work in these situations, it is the employer’s responsibility to alert you to the immediate issues, and to also alert you to the potential health issues you may face in the future. It is also the employer’s responsibility to provide their employees with adequate training and protection to limit the potential for long-term damage to their health.

Understand your rights as an employee under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970:

  • A worker has the right to ask OSHA to inspect their workplace;
  • A worker has the right to ask OHSA to inspect their workplace without employer retaliation or discrimination;
  • A worker has the right to receive copies of test performed and the results to find hazards in the workplace;
  • A worker has the right to review records of work-related illnesses and injuries;
  • A worker has the right to learn about hazards, training to prevent harm, and OSHA’s safety standards of their workplace

Read more about workers’ rights in OSHA’s Workers’ Rights booklet.

Working around hazards can be unavoidable, especially because as a society, we need people who can work around communicable diseases, like doctors and nurses. We need someone to help direct airplanes as they leave their gates, which put employees in extreme temperatures with incredible amounts of noise. We need people who can renovate structures, which can put them in contact with asbestos. Even though those risks are unavoidable, employees should be protected as much as possible through appropriate training and protective gear.

We all face some forms of occupational hazards in the workplace. The issue isn’t how to completely eliminate risk, it is making sure that your workplace takes appropriate precautions and measures to make sure the impact of workplace hazards is minimal to employee health and safety.