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5 Tips for Staying Safe in the Workplace

By: Kevin Gardner​

When you’re at work, you probably get caught up in assignments and everyday tasks. However, it’s vital to always stay safe. If you’re unsure about how to do this, here are five tips for staying safe in the workplace.

1. Use Safe and Regulated Equipment
One of the most fundamental ways to stay safe at work is to use the right equipment. Specifically, your equipment should be completely reliable and regularly checked. This is especially true when it comes to dangerous items. So, be aware of each piece of machinery you use. If you notice that anything’s amiss, even if it’s a small problem, don’t use the equipment. Instead, contact someone in charge to conduct an examination. If you don’t see any maintenance work getting done, be sure to pursue the matter in a professional way. This doesn’t only apply to construction companies and similar organizations; things like restaurant equipment can also be hazardous, so it’s always good to remain vigilant in all workplace settings.

2. Monitor Mental Health
Another thing to look out for is mental health. While this type of health is very personal, it can have a large effect on the workplace. Essentially, bad mental health may cause a worker to become unpredictable. This individual may neglect safety standards, lash out at coworkers, or even cause self-harm. So, if you see any substantial signs of declining mental health, don’t let it go. In most cases (unless you’re very close with this individual), you’ll want to contact a higher-up. If your business has an HR representative or a therapist, it would be best to contact this individual. On the other hand, a smaller issue should probably be kept as a personal matter. Simply ask how the individual is doing and profess how much you care. It’s also important to think about yourself in these cases. If you begin to experience mental health problems, be sure to see a therapist as soon as possible.

3. Stay Alert
Although work can get monotonous and repetitive, it’s essential to always stay alert. This is especially important if you work around dangerous items. In these instances, not staying alert can result in serious injuries to yourself and others. Since it’s practically impossible to be attentive for the whole day, you’ll want to consider your general work schedule. When should you be especially attentive? When are you near dangerous items? It’s also important to be visually attentive whenever possible. If there’s anything dangerous nearby, it should be marked by signage. In the event that something is lacking signage, be sure to report this immediately.

4. Communicate Regularly
Communication is key in the workplace, especially when it comes to safety. For one thing, everyone should be aware of how dangerous items work. This could be anything from an oven to a crane. The required safety gear should also be clearly communicated. In addition, it’s vital to discuss any issues you may see. For instance, any lack of safety protocols or malfunctioning machinery should be reported. Also, it’s highly important to communicate and resolve interpersonal issues. The last thing you want is to experience a brawl at work. If a resolution can’t be reached, the issue should be discussed with an HR representative. Finally, be sure to communicate any pressing issues in your personal life. If you need time off due to an extreme problem, stay honest and clear with your bosses.

5. Promote and Use Health Resources
There are usually many health resources available in the workplace. In general, there should be plenty of information available about various maladies. Common health issues in the workplace should be highlighted, particularly in signs around your office. It’s also important to promote the outside resources provided. If you have certain healthcare benefits, including therapeutic assistance, everyone should know about it. No matter what, it’s vital to use these resources when needed. Don’t feel as though you’re taking advantage of the company. Finally, basic first aid kits should be available within the office. If anything hazardous occurs, this can help to prevent excess injury and interruption.

While focusing on safety can be difficult, it’s an essential workplace task. Be alert and keep an eye out for any issues.

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.