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5 Essential Tips to Make Your Workplace Safer

By: Kevin Gardner

Whether you are working in an office, a retail environment, or a warehouse, workplace safety is incredibly important. Not only is the health and wellbeing of your employees at stake but the business itself could be at risk from workplace hazards. It is estimated that in 2019 workplace injuries cost almost $171 billion. That’s just from physical injuries. Cyber safety and information security are just as important. Having a safe workplace is the best way to increase your team’s efficiency and productivity.

1. Identify and control hazards
Potential hazards come in many forms. Identifying these hazards and having a plan to address them is the best place to start in creating a safe and productive environment. Almost every workspace, be it a retail shop, a warehouse, or an office has a storage area of some sort. Keeping these areas clean and free from clutter will eliminate many potential dangers before they happen. Employers should insist on organization and cleanliness and regularly validate that standards are being maintained. This will have the added benefit of being able to quickly find needed items without wasting a lot of time hunting through shelves or boxes.

2. Utilize cyber safety 
Controlling hazards includes more than your physical space. Cybersecurity is also an important area to consider. In this digital age, businesses keep much of their financial and personal information on computers or the internet. Make sure your employees are trained to recognize potential attacks on your digital systems. Additionally, good computer hygiene will keep everything running smoothly. Local information should be stored securely. Be sure to password protect folder groups for extra security and avoid potential information leaks. Keeping a tight rein on your business’ digital systems is a must for complete safety in today’s environment.

3. Use the right tool for the job
How many times have you seen an employee open a box with a pair of scissors instead of using a safety knife or box cutter? Hopefully never! It is essential that employees not only have access to the correct tools to do their job but also that management insist those tools be used consistently and correctly. When moving heavy objects, mechanical aids are a necessity to avoid strain injuries. The last thing you want is an employee missing work because they were trying to be a hero moving a heavy box by hand. Using lifting tables, two-wheel carts, or even team lifting objects drastically reduces instances of workplace injury. Try to consider every potential hazard and address how to combat it. Is your employee going to stand on that box to reach the top shelf or will you have them use an OSHA-approved ladder or step stool? Will you allow someone to use the forklift that hasn’t been trained? Ensuring the consistent use of safe practices will keep your workforce healthy and productive.

4. Manage stress
In this hectic world managing mental health is just as important as the physical health of your workers. One million employees miss work every day due to stress. This interruption to your business can be alleviated with a few simple steps. Appropriately timed breaks may not be a law in all states but are recommended in all efficient business models. Allowing rest periods for your employees not only refreshes them and causes them to be more productive, but can also reduce the instances of accidents due to fatigue. Having a nice environment also helps reduce stress. Try a pleasant air freshener or desks with outside views to help relieve stress. Managing stress in the workplace is one of the keys to a productive and happy business.

5. Train your workforce
A well-trained workforce will be able to efficiently and safely do their jobs. Taking the time to develop and educate your employees will eliminate the wasted time spent figuring out their job on the fly. As they become more confident in their roles, accidents and costly mistakes will decrease and job satisfaction will rise.

Maintaining a safe business is the best way to increase the productivity and satisfaction of your employees. Establishing a safe working environment will reduce costly injuries and make your business one that attracts great talent.

Jacqueline "Jackie" Annis is an industrial hygienist with the Office of Partnerships and Recognition, Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs in OSHA’s National Office.  Jackie’s primary responsibilities include developing and overseeing internal policies and procedures for the VPP, reviewing VPP on-site evaluation reports for process safety management information, serving as the National Office liaison for two of OSHA’s ten Regions, and facilitating the management of OSHA’s National Strategic Partnership Program.  She is an integral part of OSHA’s National Office team. 

She has served with the Agency for 36 years, including five years as a senior industrial hygienist in OSHA’s Office of Health Enforcement, Directorate of Enforcement Programs in the National Office and 17 years as a compliance safety and health officer in the Denver, CO Area Office.  Prior to her tenure at OSHA, Jackie worked as an industrial hygienist for the Department of the Navy in Alameda, California.  Jackie obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA in 1983.

Wayne Howard earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from UC Davis and has spent 12 years with Shell (at Martinez) refinery, 3 years with the consulting firm Process Safety, 15 years with Valero (at Benicia), and the last 10 years in the Corporate Process Safety Department. He is the Valero representative to AFPM's Advancing Process Safety Initiative.

Nathan Obaugh, PE is a senior engineer in the Safety and Operational Excellence Group at NuStar Energy. Nathan has over 10 years of PSM and process design experience in the petrochemical, refining and midstream industries. At NuStar, Nathan oversees all elements of the corporate PSM program and works directly on hazard analysis, process safety studies, PSM/RMP audits and provides process engineering support to the operations and capital projects groups.

Jared Teter, PhD is a senior staff scientist with a background in physics and hazards analysis. He has extensive experience in subscale testing of energetic materials and has served as program manager for several large testing and risk management projects. He has applied engineering and risk management protocols while evaluating the risk associated with propellant and explosives manufacturing, combustible dust, and other hazardous material related processes.

Tim Belitz has a degree in Environmental Health/Industrial Hygiene from Old Dominion University and a Master’s from Duke University. He has over 25 years of Industrial Health Safety and Environmental Experience and is a Certified Safety Professional. He has many years focused on Contractor Management and Process Safety programs.

Rob Walker graduated from Virginia Tech in Microbiology and Chemical Engineering. Rob has almost 35 years of experience working in the chemical plant and refining industry. His passion for Process Safety and Mechanical Integrity began very early in his career. Rob began with his current company, Honeywell, back in 2011.

Prasad Joshi has B.S. and M.S. Degrees in Chemical Engineering from two universities in India. Prasad has over 30 years’ experience in the business. He began with Honeywell in May 2022 as Principal Maintenance Engineer. He has worked internationally in Asia and Europe.