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How To Stay Safe In The Workplace: Avoid Hazards & Ensure Protection

Looking for advice on making and keeping your workplace safe? Read our guide on office safety for expert tips and effective preventive measures to keep your employees protected/free from danger.

Nicky Liedtke
by Nicky Liedtke | August 11, 2022 | Reading time: 4 minutes

What Is Workplace Safety?

Workplace safety is, of course, a rather extensive term that encompasses many different domains and topics since the workplace is a broad and diverse concept in itself. Nonetheless, there is some general advice to be given around the topic in order to help make your office space and workplace as safe as can be.

Also known as office safety, workplace safety creates an atmosphere of assurance in which employees can thrive. Protection in the workplace is the legal and moral right of every single employee. No matter the size, industry or status of your organization, you cannot ignore the topic and need to make it a vital component of your business in order to succeed.

By developing strategies that help promote a safer work environment, employers fulfill not only governmental requirements but can reap a multitude of benefits that extend beyond the simple but critical act of keeping people safe.

In this guide, we will go on to discuss:

1. Why workplace safety is important

2. What workplace safety hazards are

3. The most common office and workplace safety hazards

4. Steps to take to identify safety hazards efficiently

5. How safety concerns should be handled

6. Who regulates workplace safety

Worker strapped in safety harness and equipped with helmet paints a wall

Benefits & Importance Of Workplace Safety

Safety in any life situation should always be a priority and the workplace is no exception to that rule. On average, people will spend 90.000 hours of their lifetime at work, which amounts to approximately a full third of their life.

It is therefore essential for employers to ensure that our environment meets all necessary safety requirements and that the time that we spend employed is not harming us or, in the case of high risk professions, has only the smallest possible impact on our overall well-being.

According to data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020 bears witness to a staggering number of 2,7 million workplace injuries, 4.764 of which were fatal, in the United States alone. On the basis of such grounds it is obvious that workplace safety is no small matter and of vital importance.

Ensuring appropriate workplace safety is not only a moral obligation that employers should fulfill, but also one that is required by law. More importantly: setting up safety measures and health protocols in the workplace benefits not only the employees and their health but ultimately also the employer. A proven safe working environment attracts more staff, avoids high pay-outs and saves time and resources.

Especially in light of COVID-19, for example, setting up proper systems to ensure workplace safety can help prevent the spread of diseases not just within the office environment itself, but outside as well.

However, it is not the sole responsibility of the employer to ensure a safe working environment. While it is their duty to set appropriate frameworks into place and provide people with necessary training, equipment and resources. It is then the employee’s duty to act responsibly and respectfully by looking out for other people’s safety, following instructions and avoiding carelessness.

It is consequently important to remind everyone that workplace threats, however menial they may appear, can have a real and lasting impact on everyone involved.

By prioritizing workplace safety, employees and employers alike can work together to:

  • Save Lives
    Of the 2,7 million work injuries in the U.S. in 2020, 4.764 proved to be fatal. A sobering account and tragic reality even though these numbers have seen a significant decrease over the course of only a year. By setting better standards and increasing safety measures actual lives can be saved.
  • Improve Workplace Attractiveness & Improve Reputation
    A workplace that is committed to office safety and their employees’ health automatically becomes more attractive to current staff and new hires. Such commitment further promotes a healthy working environment and culture where management is actively focusing on their employees’ needs by promoting continuous improvement in every area.
  • Save Money
    By following workplace safety laws you can avoid costly safety claims and penalties. In the vein of: Better safe than sorry, it is best to take care of your workers today, treat them and their health with respect and thus do the best you can to protect them.
  • Increase Productivity
    The fewer workers are injured or otherwise incapacitated by their work, the more productive their output. Healthy and cared-for workers will be more motivated to perform their work, resulting in fewer illness-related work absences.
  • Protect Equipment
    By focusing on office and workplace safety, enforcing strategies and procedures you can expect to not only protect yourself and your employees from harm, but also improve equipment longevity. By taking all necessary precautions, adhering to safety guidelines and following instructions, equipment is treated better and is therefore less likely to fail early on.

What Are Workplace Safety Hazards?

When thinking about workplace safety and potential hazards most people assume that accident prevention is the number one priority. Schoolings on fall protection come to mind perhaps, as well as proper handling of dangerous devices. And it is of course vital to address such hazards, however, workplace safety involves so many more areas that at first glance seem unthreatening but pose great risks for employees nonetheless.

Most people, however, don’t ordinarily consider indoor air quality in an office setting to be a concern threatening workplace safety. But even such seemingly mundane details can cause serious health problems for both employers and workers alike. Injury and illness lurk everywhere, in even the most unassuming tasks and therefore need to be anticipated in order to be prevented.

Workplace hazards are commonly grouped into 6 different sources of danger that need to be addressed:

  1. Safety Hazards

    Safety hazards generally involve the most typical accidents that one considers when thinking about workplace injuries, such as trip hazards.
    This includes accidents involving
    • Falls due to unattended ladders
    • or unsecured scaffolding
    • Unguarded machinery or inappropriate use of machinery
    • Electrical hazards due to improper wiring or unsecured cords
    • Slips, trips and falls due to leakages, uncovered electrical cords or ice

  2. Physical Hazards

    Physical hazards include the body’s exposure to situations and circumstances in which the environment injures the body, such as during

  3. Biological Hazards

    Where physical hazards can harm the body without touching it, biological hazards involve living organisms and matter. Working with other people, animals or even infectious diseases poses a great threat to any employee within healthcare, laboratories and even in educational institutions such as schools, kindergartens or daycares.
    Being thus exposed to bacteria, bodily fluids, various plant matter, droppings and threatened by animal or insect bites can be extremely harmful and seriously risky.
  4. Chemical Hazards

    Chemical hazards not only threaten people in laboratories but also those working with cleaning agents, flammable liquids or even pesticides (for example are threatened and can experience rashes, irritation or even breathing problems.
  5. Ergonomic Hazards

    While not necessarily an initial concern to many, ergonomic hazards are a serious threat that threatens office workers but can also be a concern for deskless workers who may spend a lot of time sitting in vehicles or standing in production lines. In order to avoid ergonomic injuries and musculoskeletal disorders, it is important to consider:
    • the screen size
    • the size of desks
    • office seating
    • office lighting

  6. Psychological Hazards

    According to data by the Mental Health Foundation 14,7% of people experience mental health issues in the workplace. These can often result in severe illnesses, burn out and other psychological issues. Causes for mental stress are too high workload demands, lack of flexibility, a hostile work environment, sexual harrassment or a too high or low pace.
    Many factors can negatively influence the psyche, especially in the workplace. This is why it’s important to offer counseling, support and make sure that workers are being taken seriously with their concerns.

Infographic about 5 Steps to Workplace Safety

What Are The Most Common Safety Hazards In The Workplace?

Amongst the previously detailed number of safety hazards that can threaten the health and wellbeing being of employees in the workplace, some hazards are more common than others and deserve special recognition, in order for them to be avoided.

OSHA lists the most frequently cited violations to provide insights and recommendations. In 2021, the 10 most recognized hazards were:

  1. Falls within the framework of construction work, due to unprotected side edges, structurally inadequate surfaces, lack of guardrails, safety nets or other protective systems, unattended holes and many other failings.
  2. No fall training for employees who might be exposed to such hazards.
  3. Failure to provide respiratory protection for work involving dust, harmful fumes, smokes, sprays or vapors.
  4. Lacking hazard communication including information transmittance to employees and employers.
  5. Inadequate scaffolding that is unsupportive.
  6. The lack of control of hazardous energy within the framework of the lockout-tagout industry.
  7. No eye and face protection during construction work to keep employees safe from flying particles, liquids, vapors or radiation.
  8. Lack of proper training and information regarding industrial trucks their maintenance, protection and use.
  9. Improper machine guarding resulting in workers that are unprotected from rotating parts, flying debris or sparks.

As a danger foreseen is half avoided, it is important to ensure that you pay attention to common mistakes others made in protecting their workers and use them as a learning opportunity. This way you can focus on less common hazards and make sure you are fully prepared to protect your employees from any harm that might come their way.

Identify Safety Hazards In 5 Steps

While it is certainly useful to take note of the most common workplace hazards in your industry, you still have to make an effort to assess your own particular workplace in order to identify hazards that pertain to your specific situation in order to be able to avoid them.

Here is how you should go about identifying workplace hazards step-by-step:

    Tying in with the previous chapter, the best way to begin to identify safety hazards is to be aware of common and previously recorded dangers in the workplace. Refer to institutions like OSHA or the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), as well as manuals, existing trainings and specific union laws in order to gather information.
    It is important to perform inspections in the workplace in order to make sure all rules and regulations are being followed. Such inspections should take place regularly as workplaces change, adapt and evolve, new workers join the force and equipment is being upgraded or replaced.
    Create an atmosphere of open communication and regularly interview your team members – workers and managers alike – in order to get a full understanding of their working environment. Have they identified hazards that were previously overlooked? Can they point to any processes that may need an upgrade in order to provide even more safety? Whatever it is, make sure to always involve workers into different types of processes as they have a greater knowledge of the everyday procedures. Take their advice and concerns seriously.
    Whether an accident has already occurred or a near miss event has taken place, it is time to gear up and investigate whatever could have caused an issue and address it accordingly. If workers were, for example, too lax in following procedures you need to ask yourself whether they need more training and guidance or if perhaps an employee is unreliable and therefore a danger to others. Assess reports and make sure to thoroughly investigate any occurrences that left workers injured or that could potentially lead to accidents further down the road.
    Once you have gathered information about all known and potential hazards on your worksites it is time to draw up a hazard map. This tool allows you to outline workstations, mark hazards and serves as a guide on workplace and office safety. OSHA recommends involving workers in the creation process.

Address Office & Workplace Safety Hazards

While knowledge is power and awareness is the key to effective workplace safety, it is still important to remember that not every workplace accident can be prevented. It is your job, as an employee, to minimize risks, appoint safety officers and provide sufficient training.

In order to address safety concerns you need to

  • identify all possible risks through regular workplace risk assessments.
  • assess and evaluate all hazards.
  • review your findings and address issues appropriately by providing training, better PPE or more drastic measures.

Who Sets Office Safety Guidelines?

Office safety is not something that is left for you to decide on your own. Workers’ rights are heavily guarded and protected by laws and regulations that are generally enforced and verified by regulatory bodies both national and international.

Occupational Health and Safety Organization (OSHA)

One of the most well-known workplace safety agencies is the so-called OSHA, originally based in the US, that creates and enforces standards for safe and healthy working conditions. Its European counterpart is the EU-OSHA that regulares occupational safety and health for office employees and deskless workers.

International Labor Organization (ILO)

Endorsed by the United Nations and made-up of 187 member states, the International Labor Organization aims to promote workplace and office safety in the context of establishing internationally recognised human rights.

Founded in 1919, the agency wants to set international labor standards to protect employees and people across the globe. ILO’s goals, among others, include

  • the abolition of child labour,
  • eliminating forced labour,
  • promoting equality.

Four workers strapped to safety harnesses attach advertisement to the facade of a building

Frequently Asked Questions

Types of workplace hazards

  • Safety Hazards
  • Physical Hazards
  • Biological Hazards
  • Chemical Hazards
  • Ergonomic Hazards
  • Psychological Hazards
  • Who Sets Office Safety Guidelines?

    Office safety is not something that is left for you to decide on your own. Workers’ rights are heavily guarded and protected by laws and regulations that are generally enforced and verified by regulatory bodies both national and international.

  • Occupational Health and Safety Organization (OSHA)
  • International Labor Organization (ILO)
  • Is workplace safety required by law?

    Ensuring appropriate workplace safety is not only a moral obligation that employers should fulfill, but also one that is required by law. More importantly: setting up safety measures and health protocols in the workplace benefits not only the employees and their health but ultimately also the employer. A proven safe working environment attracts more staff, avoids high pay-outs and saves time and resources.

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    Nicky Liedtke

    Nicky Liedtke

    Nicky is a content writer and researcher for Lumiform. With her content writing and copywriting experience, she creates high-quality content across a variety of relevant topics. She aims to promote workplace safety, sustainable operational excellence, and continuous improvement in her articles. She is passionate about communicating how technology can be used to have a positive impact on the environment and helping organizations reduce paper waste and achieve their business goals.

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