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How to Identify Safety Risks in the Workplace

We spoke with Regional Health and Safety Manager Meg Artymko who has over 16 years of experience helping companies create safer environments for their employees. She provided a list of strategies to identify safety risks in the workplace.

Categorize the potential hazards in your workplace

The first step to solving a potential issue is recognizing that it exists. OSHA’s website is a great resource, it has a thorough list of numerous types of hazards. They range from chemical to physical to ergonomical and more. A good first step would be to consult this list and then tour your workplace looking for hazards.

“It’s important to think critically about each hazard you identify and categorize them by severity. How likely is this hazard to create an injury and how severe could the injury be? This will allow you to prioritize the hazards you identify,” says Artymko

Your employees could also be a good source of insight into this. Send them a copy of the list and ask them to join you as you tour your workplace for hazards. Or ask them about their thoughts on potential hazards and consider setting up a joint health and safety committee. This can be a team-building exercise while providing your workplace with valuable information about potential hazards.

Bring in an inspector or consultant

You and your staff may know your workplace better than anyone. However, don’t underestimate how insightful an objective point of view may be. Consider bringing in a professional who’s trained to identify and mitigate workplace safety risks and hazards. A workplace inspector or consultant can identify hazards and train your staff to spot risks themselves. Aerotek’s Health and Safety Team or a third-party consultant can be an asset to your company if you’re concerned about unnoticed hazards.

”Aerotek’s Health and Safety Team is located all across North America and has worked and toured thousands of companies. We can help provide insight into what we have seen at other industry specific companies and provide creative solutions to help eliminate the hazards,” says Artymko.

Recognize the human factors in safety

Not all hazards have to be physical or environmental — humans are also prone to accidents. They pose a risk not because they can make mistakes or overestimate their qualifications and/or abilities. Team members working with dangerous equipment such as heavy machinery or vehicles, corrosive chemicals, or specialized tools pose a safety risk if they’re untrained in the proper techniques. This risk is not just to themselves, but to other team members.

If this applies to any of your staff, it is vital to ensure that they’re properly trained. If their tasks require specific training, ensure they have the proper credentials or qualifications and give them access to people who can answer their questions. You can’t eliminate human error, but you can minimize the risk of errors and accidents from lack of skill.

“Many of the injuries we see come from a lack of training, Aerotek provides a general safety training to all employees and it is the host employer’s responsibility to provide the site specific training. It is imperative to ensure that the employee is competent in the task they are completing through training or valid certifications to avoid injuries,” says Artymko.

First Aid and Training

Accidents can still occur even when all risks are identified and you've trained your staff. Use these events to investigate and learn more about how you can prevent future accidents. It will also be helpful for your employees to know what to do if an accident occurs. Meg Artymko recommends having a specific procedure employees can refer to when an incident occurs.

“You never know how you or someone around you is going to act when there is an injury. It is important to have a detailed program and for all individuals to be trained on the program in the event of an injury. This can help reduce injury and potential save an individual’s life,” says Artymko.

Make a point that every new employee knows the basics of first aid. Walk every employee through the list of fire exits and familiarize them with the locations of fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and automatic external defibrillators (AEDs). You may only be able to minimize the risk of accidents so much, but you can also minimize the harm that might happen if they do.

If you need help identifying the safety risks at your company’s worksites, contact us today.