How do accidents happen? Oftentimes, the answer is not drawn out in thick, multiple page reports. Nor does it require to be analyzed, hypothesized, or synthesized to create some abstract cause or reasoning. Rather, most accidents happen because of small decisions. Though seemingly harmless, these decisions be disastrous. They can result in severe damage to property, serious injury, and death. A small mental lapse can lead to much larger consequences. Employers need to be aware of the processes that can, when neglected, balloon into a workplace hazards.
There are a number of workplace conditions that coincide with the occurrence of occupational accidents. These conditions should be drilled into the minds of every employee. They are factors that span the spectrum of job types, and can be applied to every workplace in some way. The key is for employers to instill inclinations within employees that echo in their minds whenever they are faced with a potential hazard-bearing decision. These conditions are highlighted because of their pertinence to the occurrence of workplace accidents. In fact, the Department of Labor in the state of Maine has some of these factors listed in their “deadly dozen”. Additionally, an article on Skybrary.aero includes some of these in their list of ‘human error pre-conditions’ for aircraft safety. Identifying the common conditions that correlate with workplace mishaps can help employers and employees decrease these events. Here is a list of conditions that have hazard-bearing potential.
- Lack of Communication- Communication is absolutely vital in a workplace setting. Especially in job environments that use of heavy machinery and potentially dangerous tools. A failure to effectively communicate can lead to injury from a variety of sources. For example, injuries in the construction industry are often caused by large vehicles moving in reverse. A lack of communication results in these vehicles backing over unsuspecting workers. Ultimately, communication is crucial to the safety of employees in all job types.
- Stress- Stress is a natural occurrence in any workplace. However, when stress levels are too high it should be a cause for concern. Employees who are over-stressed are more likely to make mistakes, and thus they are more likely to be involved in workplace accidents. Not only so, but stress can take a toll on an individual’s health. This can cost employers money in employee turnover and absenteeism; not to mention the personal cost on the employee. The bottom line? A work environment where stress is the dominant condition is at a high risk for accidents and injuries.
- Insufficient Housekeeping- Believe it or not but housekeeping plays a role in accident occurrences. A tidy work environment will help decrease the number of accidents and job-related illnesses within the workplace. Organizing isles and picking up clutter can help reduce trips and falls, while dusting and disinfecting can help prevent sickness. A workplace that is in poor condition only elevates the potential for work-related accidents.
- Unsecured Loads- Whether you are hauling trimmed tree branches, furniture, construction supplies, or grocery store merchandise: unsecured loads can cause serious problems. It is crucial to double check all straps and tie-downs, as well as haul no more than recommended capacity. It is better to make an extra trip than cause a serious accident.
- Poor Form/Posture- Repetitive Stress Injuries are extremely debilitating. These injuries are often caused by repeated motion, poor posture, and improper lifting technique. For example, back injuries are very common in nearly every workplace. Preventing back injuries is easier said than done. Employers need to stress the importance of proper lifting technique, as well as good posture. In an office setting, carpel tunnel is common amongst employees who spend their time over a keyboard. This is another type of repetitive stress injury. Adjusting the conditions that cause RPIs can greatly decrease the number of these injuries faced by your workforce.
Do any of these conditions and acts apply to your work environment? Do you have your own form of the ‘deadly dozen’? It is safe to assume that these conditions are present in your workplace in some way. If employees are aware of these conditions, then they are more likely to identify them on the job. Training and awareness are key to mitigating the conditions and decisions that result in accidents. Review these conditions with your employees. Perhaps consider putting together a ‘deadly conditions’ list specifically for your workplace, and improve the safety of your employees.