17 Workplace Safety Tips To Share With Your Employees

Anyone who runs a business knows how important workplace safety is. Nobody wants anyone to get hurt on the job, right?

Keeping employees safe is paramount to creating a clean and healthy workplace environment that they will enjoy working in.

It also makes sense to ensure that your safe and healthy workplace is up to par with regard to local regulations and standards.

One of the institutions that create such rules and regulations is the Workplace Health and Safety (WHS), often referred to as Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S). Their duty is an assessment and migration of risks that may impact the health, safety or welfare of those in your workplace.

Every business owner needs to comply with these legal requirements to ensure that a workplace is safe for everyone – from employees to customers, visitors, contractors, volunteers and even suppliers.

Aside from complying with legal requirements, workplace safety is also critical for the long-term success of any business.

A safe workplace helps:

  • retain staff
  • maximise productivity
  • minimise employee injury and illnesses
  • minimise sick leaves and absenteeism
  • reduce the costs of injury and workers’ compensation
  • meet legal responsibilities and employee obligations

There’s always something you can do to make sure that all your employees go home looking and feeling as great as when they started the day.

Here are a few tips on workplace safety you might also want to share with your team.

1. Keep every corner clean, organised, and clutter-free

Slipping and tripping are usually caused by scattered objects or spills on the floor. Make sure that your workplace is always clean and fresh. Keep the aisles clean, organised, and clutter-free to ensure that nothing’s in the way that can hurt those who are working.

This is just one, direct way, the clutter influences your workplace negatively. However, there is another, more indirect way, also.

Stress reduces the cognitive abilities in people. This means stressed employees will be clumsier, more prone to mistakes, accidents and decreased productivity. If you cannot handle decluttering your workplace, at least make sure you have a well-stocked First Aid Kit ready.

2. Use mats on slippery floors

Alsco’s line of wet area rubber mats is a perfect passive move towards employee safety. They’re industrial grade and capable of absorbing up to 80% of water and dirt. Placed strategically around the office, they can save your employees from nasty slips and fall.

Again, simply preventing a trip and slip is just the most obvious and direct way of ensuring safety. There are other types of floor mats that can also make your workplace safer.

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Placing the dust control mats on your workplace entrances, you will reduce the number of germs that are being brought inside on the people’s’ soles. In that way, you will reduce the number of infections, flu and other germ induced illnesses.

Infections and germ caused illnesses are not the only causes of sick days taken by your employees. Those that spend many hours standing are in great danger of having back issues or/and painful joints. Anti-fatigue mats ease the burden prolonged standing has on people’s back and joints.

3. Store combustible materials properly

When not stored properly, these combustible materials are serious fire hazards. They can put everyone’s safety at risk. Make sure these materials are stored in areas with proper ventilation.

Again, any spills or splatters made while working with these sorts of materials should be properly cleaned right away.

That is only the beginning. Every workplace that handles flammable and combustible materials needs to do so in accordance with Workplace Health and Safety rules and regulations, depending on the state in which the business resides.

First of all, all such materials need to be properly labeled, based on GHS – the globally harmonised system for the classification and labelling of chemicals. These chemicals need to be labeled in accordance with ADG7.4 – The Australian Dangerous Goods Code Edition 7.4.

GHS defines a flammable liquid as a liquid having a flash point of not more than 93°C. The chemicals are further classified according to their flash points.

A person who runs the business is responsible for the following:

  • Creating and conducting all emergency planning
  • Ensuring everybody has personal protective equipment
  • Dealing with risks from flammable solvent vapours, including the places where it exceeds 5% of the lower explosive limit
  • Managing fire and explosion risks
  • Keeping the amount of flammable and combustible substances at the lowest practicable quantity
    labelling pipework
  • Providing a manifest and site plan if there is too much of such substance on site
  • Ensuring storage areas are appropriately properly labeled and signs are visible
  • Containing and managing leaks and spills
  • Making sure containers, pipework and attachments are damage-free
  • Providing appropriate fire protection systems
  • Managing all risks associated with storage and handling systems and equipment

4. Ensure proper training when handling equipment or machinery

Any employee tasked to handle the tools, equipment, or machines should go through proper training first. Anyone who isn’t trained should never be assigned to handle heavy machinery and should stay away from it.

Training is not enough for doing high risk work involving the heavy equipment and machinery. Your workers have to have appropriate license to work in certain conditions and handle certain machinery and/or equipment. Furthermore, once acquired, this licence is not forever and needs to be renewed.

The licence is categorised and you need to make sure your employees are eligible for the category your business needs. Mainly, Licence to Perform High Risk Work is about handling different machinery and equipment such as:

— Cranes
— Reach stackers
— Elevating platforms
— Hoists
— Boilers
— Scaffolds

Needless to say, whenever you have heavy machinery and dangerous goods in your workplace, you need to have proper First Aid Kits and trained personnel who can administer it properly.

5. Provide clothes appropriate for tasks

Employees who will be using power tools should wear the proper workwear when operating such machinery. Have them wear the right shoes and protective equipment for the task. Use only gloves that fit right and are appropriate for a certain task.

Different types of industries require different uniforms and protective gear.

For example, medical personnel needs uniforms that will prevent them from being contaminated with the bacteria while enabling them to move comfortably.

Industrial workwear, on the other hand, needs to provide UV protection, protection from fire and other hazards. Of course, it all depends on the industry. Naturally, you will opt for a sturdier fabrics if you want to equip workers in the automotive industry. On the other hand, those that work with open fire and flames need fire retardant fabrics.

Food processing garments don’t have to be that special, but they need to be made out of antibacterial fabrics to prevent any

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6. Clearly label designated hazardous zones

Areas, where dangerous equipment is stored, should be clearly labeled and the walkways should be highlighted with necessary signage.

It also helps to mark the hazardous zones with tape or black and white stripes painted on the floor. This keeps employees aware of dangerous surroundings and helps them avoid accidents that may cause serious injuries.

The important issue is to make sure the signs are properly made and positioned. You need to consult Australian Standards AS 1319:1994 for this. This Standard lists the requirements for the design and use of safety signs in a workplace. They are classified as follows:

  1. Regulatory signs warn about actions and measurements required by law. They are subdivided as follows:
    a. Prohibition signs
    b. Mandatory signs
    c. Limitation or restriction signs
  2. Hazard signs that warn about dangers and hazards. They are subdivided as follows:
    a. Danger signs – warning of a particular hazard that can be life-threatening.
    b. Warning signs – warning of a hazard that is not likely to be life-threatening.
  3. Emergency information signs include directions to emergency-related facilities such as exits, safety equipment or first aid facilities, including the fire signs.

7. Provide first aid training

Providing your employees with first aid stations goes a long way towards safety and a practical way to deal with emergencies. These wall-mounted stations must be fully stocked with a first aid kit that has all the meds and supplies needed to handle the most commonly encountered situations in the office.

The first step toward creating a safer workplace is getting a professional workplace risk assessment. This will identify all the potential risks that lurk in your workplace. Once that is done, you can go on and take all the necessary precautions.

Some of them include simply putting appropriate signs throughout your workplace. Others involve a closer look at your First Aid efforts.

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Emergency Response Training
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There are several things to take into consideration when you want to ensure a safe workplace in terms of First Aid. Detailed explanation of your obligations in terms of First Aid is regulated by model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations and Model Code of Practice: First aid in the workplace.

General recommendations in these acts suggest the following among other things:

— You need to give your employees access to First Aid Kits and First Aid Providers.

— First Aid Kits need to be positioned in the areas where the injuries are most likely to happen.

— Your workplace vehicles need to be equipped with special, appropriate First Aid Kits

First Aid Providers are your employees who are trained to administer first aid in case of emergency. The number of such employees depends on many factors, including the risk level in your workplace and the distance to the nearest medical facility.

The risk level in your workplace is directly correlated to the number of people that are there throughout the day, including both employees and the visitors. Larger workplaces carry higher risks. Certain industries carry higher risks (eg. IT company is at lower risk than an automotive company).

As a rule of thumb, you need one First Aid Provider for every 50 people in a low-risk company and one on every 25 people in a high-risk company.

8. Implement emergency procedures

Unfortunately, emergencies do not announce themselves. In Australia, you can expect flood, fire and even earthquakes. You have to be prepared if you want to ensure safety for your business, employees and your visitors.

For this to happen, you need to have some procedures already in place if an emergency happens:

— First, you need to do your best to anticipate natural disasters and similar emergencies. Check social media and Bureau of Meteorology 

— Make sure your insurance is in check

— Identify risks to your business

— Identify crucial points to your business and how to protect them

— Create an emergency management plan

— Ensure you have employees who completed Emergency Response and Evacuations Training

9. Ensure ergonomic workplace

Consider putting ergonomically designed furniture and equipment in your workplace. It’s also best to rearrange the work area and make sure that everything is within easy reach to prevent falling and other accidents when reaching for things.

When it comes to offices, make sure that everybody has a workstation that suits them. This includes good computer, excellent desk and chair and enough light to work well.

On the other hand, a barista who stands all day will need a good anti-fatigue mat to help them deal with sore back and joints. They will also need a bar which is of appropriate height and well-functioning appliances.

In other words, make sure that anything that can be adjusted so that it prevents unnecessary strains, unfortunate body positions and posture – is adjusted.

10. Use mechanical aids for lifting and transportation

There are two ways you can lift something: on your own and by using some sort of aids. For tasks that involve a lot of heavy lifting, provide mechanical aids such as a wheelbarrow, conveyor belt, crane or forklift. Otherwise, you are risking your employees’ health and you will definitely see a rise in the number of injuries.

Lifting is the number one cause of muscle and bone injuries in the workplace. It makes a quarter of all injury claims.

Think about how much heavy lifting there is in your workplace. Is it just an occasional occurrence? Do you own a warehouse?

Even if you have just an office that only involves some box carrying here and there, it is still important to protect your workers. Teach them how to lift safely and avoid back injuries.

However, if there is a warehouse involved or a large storage room, you need to rent or invest in transportation and lifting devices. Make sure they are used safely and the best way to do it is to hire trained people to handle them or to provide training for those that be responsible for handling heavy objects.

11. Make new employees understand the workplace risks

The first thing you need to do, as we already suggested earlier, is to understand the workplace risks yourself. This is done by conducting full workplace risk assessment. Once you have all this information, you need to convey it to your new employee. They need to know:

— Possible general risks and courses of action in case of emergency

— Risks specific to their own position in the company

General workplace risks are to some degree the same in all companies of the same industry. For example, everybody has to have a way to deal with fire hazards. Everybody needs to know at least where the First Aid cabinets are.

Workplace First Aid
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First Aid Training
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Emergency Response Training
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On the other hand, certain jobs mean certain risks. For example, baristas may have a higher chance of burning their hands on hot steam. Chefs will be more prone to cuts with a knife while those that work in the automotive industry can expect potential risks of inhaling dangerous chemicals.

Particular hazards of a job or workplace should always be discussed when orienting new employees. This helps them be more aware and cautious when moving around the workplace and reduces risks of work-related injury or illness.

If your employee is hired to be a manual task worker, you need to warn them about the following:

  • which postures, movements and forces of the task pose a risk
  • where during the task they pose a risk
  • why they are occurring what needs to be fixed.

In order to ensure the highest levels of safety for your employees who work on manual tasks, you need to consult Hazardous manual tasks: Code of practice 2011.

12. Avoid assigning the same repetitive tasks over and over

Repetitive tasks are more dangerous than you may think. Even if they are as seemingly simple as typing. These kinds of tasks can be taxing for your employees in two ways. Repetitive tasks can be strenuous on their body and their mind.

Repetitive tasks can cause Occupational overuse syndrome (OOS) which is another name for repetitive strain injury or RSI. It can affect your back, shoulders, arms, elbows, fingers, wrists and other joints and muscles. The common symptoms include:

  • Uncomfortable aches
  • Weak muscles
  • Restricted joint mobility
  • Swelling
  • Numbness

It is important to understand that OOS effects will not simply go away on their own and they need to be treated.

Another way repetitive tasks can take its toll on your employees is by increasing their mental fatigue. It can cause loss of attention, increase stress, trigger depression episodes, and decrease the overall satisfaction levels.

Vary employee’s activities to keep them from doing one task for long periods of time. It also helps to rotate people through tasks, teaching them more about how the business really works, also allowing changes in their posture and activities.

13. Service your tools and machinery regularly

Servicing your tools and machinery is not something that needs to be done only when they break down. You need to do your best to prevent the malfunctions from happening in the first place.

Why? This can stop your business process and cost you money. Even more importantly, somebody can get hurt in the process!

Maintenance needs to be thorough, professional and regular. Proper maintenance includes:

  • Inspection
  • Testing
  • Measurement
  • Replacement
  • Adjustment
  • Keeping the logs

All maintenance needs to be done in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendation. That is the only way it can be done properly. Also, not just anybody can do maintenance of every piece of your equipment. Some of it will have to be subcontracted to professionals that deal with such equipment.

14. Reduce workplace stress

The most common causes of stress and work burn-out are long hours, heavy workload, job insecurity and conflicts. These can lead to depression, sleeping difficulties, and affect employees concentration.

In more general terms, workplace stress happens when the requirements of the employee’s position surpass their capabilities, resources and current state. This causes the frustration that, if continues for a long period of time, can turn into a chronic stress.

Other risk factors of stress can include conflicts at work, being bullied or even harassed. While other stress management actions should be implemented for other causes of workplace stress, these two require more strict and sometimes even legal actions.

The effects of workplace stress can range from mild to severe. Physical signs of stress are:

  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Fatigue
  • Indigestion
  • Low immune system
  • Muscle tension
  • Pains and headaches
  • Sweating
  • Disturbed appetite
  • Sleeping issues

Psychological effects of stress are also present and they seriously reduce the life quality of your employees. These include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, worried or guilty
  • Being irritable or unhappy
  • Losing confidence and decisiveness
  • Having negative and/or racing thoughts
  • Memory issues

Promote healthy lifestyle and create a stress-free environment in the workplace. After all this is one of the manager’s tasks since stress at the workplace means the workplace is not safe and managers are responsible for the safety.

In order to act in these situations, you first need to be able to identify the risk factors of stress with your employees. Download the Job Identification Stress Checklist and use it to pinpoint the stressed individuals in your company.

After that, you need to make sure you know how to approach such individuals, while preserving their right to privacy and not making them feel threatened. Read how to communicate with your staff on the topic of stress and how to deal with stress.

15. Stay hydrated all the times

Living and working during the Australian summers can really become strenuous due to the high temperatures. Dehydration is not uncommon in such circumstances. The symptoms of mild dehydration include:

  • The feeling of being thirsty
  • Having dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Dark or insufficient urine

However, dehydration also decreases your brain function and cognitive abilities. Even as little as 1-2 percent of dehydration makes you think slower. This means slower reactions, less concentration and, consequently, more accidents at work.

Encourage your employees to drink lots of water everyday. Drinking more water, juices, and other non-alcoholic drinks at frequent intervals will help a lot in replacing all the fluids they’ve lost from working.

Coffee, alcohol and certain salty and sweet foods will increase the chances of dehydration and make it more severe. Carbonated drinks are also not a good source of hydration because they contain some salts.

Click the image to view the whole infographic.

16. Give regular breaks

Employees that have regular breaks tend to feel more fresh and alert than those who don’t. Let employees rest in a cool place. This helps avoiding injuries or burnouts.

The latest recommendations claim that numerous mini-breaks are much more effective than one long break. According to those experts, these types of breaks will improve your employees cognitive abilities, boost their creativity, improve their satisfaction at work, reduce stress and make them healthier.

Since boosting concentration and focus is one of the benefits of taking breaks, it goes without saying that this reduces accidents at the workplace. Especially the ones that happen due to fatigue, lack of concentration and focus.

17. Be prepared in medical emergency situations

First aid ably covers the basics. But what happens in a true emergency? In some industries, the workplace can be quite severe. The most common workplace injuries in Australia are:

— Strains and sprains
— Fractures
— Open wounds
— Contusion
— Tissue disorders
— Burns

However, even if it is not that common, people can suffer from a sudden cardiac arrests or heart attacks at any time or place.

It is important to learn all about the warning signs although they may vary from one person to another. Here are the most common ones:

It’s only right that you have an automated external defibrillator ready in situations like this so you and your employees have a simple yet effective response to a potentially dangerous emergency.

Don’t wait for the defibrillator to be available before administering CPR and calling for help by dialing 000. The ambulance should be on their way as soon as possible.

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Being Prepared Can Save Lives

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Photo Courtesy of Flickr Images by Oregon Department of Transportation.

Disclaimer – These articles are provided to supply general health, safety, and green information to people responsible for the same in their organisation. The articles are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs.