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Safe Work Environment

Written by Steve Hudgik February 6th 2013

OSHA has been given the responsibility of issuing and enforcing standards that promote a safe work environment.  We'll be taking a look at safety in three areas that typically do not get much attention from OSHA.

OSHA Best Practices Guide
OSHA Safety Signs Best Practices Guides

Safe Work Environment - At the Office

Having a safe and healthy office means paying attention to chemical hazards, selecting good equipment and work station designs, maintaining a comfortable physical environment (temperature, humidity, light, etc.), being aware of how tasks are completed, and includes psychological factors such as personal interactions, work pace and job control.

Each employee needs to be physically comfortable. Workers should not need to over-reach, sit or stand too long, or be in awkward postures. Changes to equipment, furniture or workstation design are typically the best solutions to these types of problems.

In other situations the equipment may be fine, but the task needs to be adjusted. For example, those who work at computers should take a short break every hour. This reduces discomfort and the likelihood of an injury.

At times physical hazards exist in an office. These might include extension cords across walkways, leaving low drawers open, or objects falling from overhead. Pay attention to tripping, slipping and struck-by hazards and have a established system for reporting them.

Safe Work Environment - Shift Work

Employees whose shifts have additional hazards have more risk for injury or health problems. Because of their schedule, shift workers may be tired and sleepy at work. This can make it difficult to concentrate, which increases the possibility of errors or accidents. In addition, the stress of shift work also can aggravate health conditions, such as heart disease or digestive disorders.

Sleep during the day is typically shorter and less refreshing than sleep during the night. In addition, brain and body functions naturally slow down during the night and particularly during the early morning hours. The combination of sleep loss, and working at the body's low energy point, results in fatigue and sleepiness. This makes it more difficult to perform well, which increases the risk of accidents.

To improve safety and health when shifts must be worked, if possible:

  • Keep the number of consecutive night shifts to a minimum
  • Avoid quick changes in shift schedules
  • Include free weekends in the schedule
  • Avoid having several long days of work followed by four- to seven-day “mini-vacations”
  • Keep the shift schedule regular and predictable
  • Provide ample rest breaks

Safe Work Environment - Sprains and Strains

The purpose of ergonomics is to reduce stress and eliminate injuries and disorders associated with the overuse of muscles, bad posture and repeated tasks. These types of injuries are most often strains and sprains.

Manual material handling, and health care workers (lifting patients) are jobs that account for a large number of workplace stress and strain injuries. These injuries typically involve strains and sprains to the lower back, shoulders and upper limbs. They may result in protracted pain, disability, medical treatment and financial stress.

Here are some prevention tips to keep in mind:

  • When lifting bend at the knees, not at the waist.
  • Hold loads close to your body when lifting or carrying.
  • Move your feet to turn your whole body, don't twist, when lifting and lowering objects.
  • Avoid squatting, over-reaching, bent-over postures, and repeated forceful gripping.
  • Whenever possible use carts and dollies to move materials.
  • Change tasks and postures frequently to avoid repetitive stress.
  • Place handles on containers and use the right tools for the job.

The information presented in this document was obtained from sources that we deem reliable; Graphic Products does not guarantee accuracy or completeness. Graphic Products, Inc. makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied. Users of this document should consult municipal, state, and federal code and/or verify all information with the appropriate regulatory agency.

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