Workplace Safety and the Importance of Preparedness
Wellness is an important facet of our everyday lives. Whether you are at work or home, understanding how to take care of your body and what risks you are exposed to are important steps on the path to safety and health. It is especially important to understand how environmental factors are contributing to your overall health. These factors include your environment, occupation, and the location of your workplace.
Employees in any occupation should understand the dangers in their workplace. However, it is the responsibility of the employer or supervisor to ensure they are providing a safe work environment for all. Regardless of the profession, ensuring that every employee is well equipped with training and understanding of the health hazards around them is an indicator of strong leadership.
As most people know, air quality can vary depending on the surroundings. Because of this, understanding your surroundings will help you to understand your health risks as well.
For instance, workers on a construction site are exposed to several toxins. Depending on the age of a job site or building that is being worked on, there will be different concerns. For example, if a team is working on a home that was built before the 1970s, the presence of asbestos is a concern that must be taken seriously.
This pollutant was once heavily used in a variety of professions and products. For instance, roofing sheets, electric wiring, and pipes were all asbestos-laden. Unfortunately, it is still found in a number of these products in older buildings. It, therefore, remains a major safety hazard for those working in the construction field and those living in buildings built before the 1970s. According to recent data, 1.3 million construction workers are exposed to asbestos every year. Consequently, proper education and equipment must be provided for employees to prevent exposure to these hazards.
Employers may also consider other workplace air contaminants such as industrial chemicals (benzene and chloroform). Furthermore, dust from wood industries may also contain silica, which leads to severe lung disease.
Being aware of the tools and products used on the job is an important first step to stay safe on the job site. Although some are more dangerous than others, inhaling any type of contaminant can present health hazards.
Safety precautions are, therefore, imperative.
This can be as simple as better ventilation to remove these air pollutants. These chemicals, such as benzene - one of the 20 most commonly used chemicals in the US - must be regulated and understood before they are used.
Sick Building Syndrome
Office buildings are also not exempt from air quality concerns. The constellation of hazards resulting from poor environmental conditions describes sick building syndrome. The diagnosis is made when several employees in a building have similar unexplainable health symptoms in the presence of identifiable environmental hazards.
Usually, these symptoms occur once the workers enter the building and resolve after leaving. The symptoms may include headaches, itchy skin, dizziness, fatigue, nosebleeds, and nausea. In severe cases, workers may experience heart palpitations and miscarriage. If more than 20 percent of a building’s inhabitants are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, the building is considered sick.
Poor air quality is a major cause of sick building syndrome. As a result of this, workers are continuously exposed to chemical contaminants and biological contaminants such as mold and pollen.
To make a building safe again, the solution requires not only proper ventilation but also the use of materials that do not produce yield these contaminants
Ergonomics resonates with the majority of those working in an office setting. Ergonomics ensures that your workplace or work station provides you with the right tools and equipment to protect your body each day.
To start, employers can provide adjustable desk chairs that allow employees to assume comfortable positions: these chairs must also provide ample back support.
If proper ergonomics are not addressed in the workplace, it may lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, lower back injuries, and more, which all result from abnormal positions at work. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), work-related MSDs are the most highly reported causes of lost or limited work time.
Personal Tips to encourage proper ergonomics in the office include:
● The weight of your arms should always be supported.
● When you sit, your feet should be securely on the floor - not dangling.
● The keyboard must be easily accessible and not require constant strain to reach.
● Never use your neck and head to hold a phone.
● Your computer monitor must be directly in front of you to avoid “craning” your head and neck.
Continuing education in the ever-changing environment of work and wellness is one of the most important things that can be done as an employer. As an employee, you need to understand the health risk at work and ways your organization can step in to reduce these risks.
The National Safety Stand-down is a good place to start. Although this program was created to provide employees with safety tips for fall hazards, it can be incorporated into any workspace to create an environment for employers to talk directly to their employees about safety in general.
Whether you are an employee sitting at a desk or an employer running a construction team, safety will always be a popular topic and will require input from everyone. Being prepared will always provide the best results and understanding your environment will assist workers in the ever-evolving process of safety and wellness.