Engineering a Safe Workplace: Best Practices for Hazard Identification and Mitigation

As reported by the National Safety Council, preventable workplace deaths in 2020 totaled 4,113. Even one life lost is too many – and while every worker deserves to make it home safely 365 days a year, during June, there’s an emphasized focus on preventing and minimizing the impact of incidents during National Safety Month.

Each week of the month has a specific theme: musculoskeletal disorders; workplace impairment; injury prevention; and slips, trips, and falls. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer more detail on each area.

Best Practices for a Safe Workplace

Know the Hierarchy of Controls

To engineer a safer workplace, it’s essential to determine which actions will best control employees’ exposure to hazards. In this hierarchy of control, the optimal order of action is:

  1. Elimination: This involves removing hazards at their source. Often, it requires changes in work processes. Elimination is based on preventing exposure before it occurs.
  2. Substitution: This means using a safer alternative to hazards, such as substituting plant-based products for solvent-based products.

Elimination and substitution are best applied at the design or development stage of a process, substance, or tool. Another good opportunity is when selecting new equipment.

  1. Engineering controls: Examples of these measures are modifying equipment or workspaces and using protective barriers. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) offers examples in its Engineering Controls Database.
  2. Administrative controls: Work process training, job rotation, ensuring adequate rest breaks, limiting access to hazardous areas and machinery, and adjusting line speeds, as well as other steps to reduce the duration, frequency, and intensity of hazard exposure, fall into this category.
  3. Personal protective equipment (PPE): When exposure cannot be engineered entirely out of operations and administrative controls fall short, using PPE is a supplementary control method. PPE must be used correctly and consistently.

PM Plays a Major Role

Preventive maintenance (PM) plays a leading role in ensuring the continued effectiveness of hazard controls, as it keeps new hazards from arising. Reliable PM scheduling and documentation is necessary.

Additional Steps

To eliminate hazards and mitigate workplace safety risks, your company can:

  • Regularly communicate your health and safety policy. Make sure every employee knows how it pertains to their specific job. Using whichever media ensures that everyone can access safety information 24/7.
  • Reconcile risks quickly. Establish an effective protocol for workers to report and deal with hazards as soon as they identify them. A mobile app is helpful for this purpose.
  • Embed health and safety into your culture. Make it clear that safety is everyone’s responsibility. Managers and senior leaders need to walk the talk and reinforce that safety is your organization’s top priority, without exception.

Are Your Safety Protocols Sufficient?

Venteon Technical can help as you develop and implement your safety policies, processes, and philosophy, keep them up to date, and build a culture geared toward a zero-incident track record. This includes hiring the best engineers and other technical specialists to join your industry-leading team. Contact us today to learn more.

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