Why Occupational Health and Safety is Important
Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) focuses primarily on protecting employees in the workplace from accidents, injuries, and exposure to harmful substances. While accidents can happen at any time, it is still the employer’s responsibility to ensure that they take steps to reduce the risk of incidents and maintain a safe working environment. Prioritizing OHS at your business has several key benefits, including:
- Reduced risk or accidents or injuries by identifying and mitigating hazards
- Improved efficiency and productivity due to fewer employees missing work from illness or injury
- Improved employee relations and morale (a safer work environment is a less stressful work environment)
- Reduced costs associated with accidents or injuries (healthcare and rehabilitative costs, losses in productivity, impact on employees’ well-being)
- Lower insurance premiums resulting from fewer workplace incidents and workers’ compensation claims
It’s no secret that all industries have safety hazards of some sort. The most important aspect of a good Occupational Health and Safety policy is identifying these hazards and ensuring that employees have the training, safety equipment, and other resources needed to work safely. Failure to implement effective policies and precautions can lead to injuries, reduced productivity due to the absence or loss of skilled labor, workers’ compensation claims, and possible penalties from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
There are several types of hazards employees may be exposed to depending on their industry:
- Physical hazards are environmental factors that can lead to injuries. These include exposed electrical wiring, falling objects, wet floors, and other conditions that can cause slips, falls, cuts, or other injuries. Some physical hazards don’t necessarily need to make physical contact to cause harm, such as excessive noise levels, heat, and pressure.
- Biological hazards can lead to diseases, infections, and other serious health conditions. Mold and fungi, blood and other bodily fluids, bacteria, viruses, sewage, and vermin are all examples of biological hazards. Using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is vital to preventing exposure to biological hazards and protecting your health.
- Chemical hazards can be inhaled as gases or vapors, or come in contact with skin as a liquid or solid. They can cause skin irritation, burns, respiratory problems, blindness, or other serious health complications. Chemicals such as cleaning products, acids, pesticides, and petroleum products need to be handled responsibly with proper PPE to prevent exposure.
- Ergonomic hazards put strain on muscles, tendons, and other connective tissues of the body. They can result from bad posture, not using dollies other mechanical assistance, and repetitive or awkward lifting/movement. They can lead to musculoskeletal injuries such as muscle sprains, ruptured or herniated discs, and carpal tunnel.
- Psychological hazards can lead to depression, concentration problems, inattention, or negligence. This type of hazard includes work-related stress, fatigue, harassment, and violence. These conditions can, in turn, lead to morale issues, reduced productivity and quality of work, and increased risk of injury.
How to Promote Occupational Health and Safety in Your Workplace
- Make sure that your OHS policies comply with all federal and/or state laws and regulations
- Ensure that your staff is properly trained on all machinery and equipment they may use in the workplace and are certified to operate them if required
- Keep Safety Data Sheets (SDS or MSDS) for all chemical products in use at your workplace, and make sure that they are easily accessible by your employees
- Have all necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as hard hats, eye protection, and respirators readily available to all employees
- Use tools and other equipment correctly and only for their intended purpose
- Use mechanical assistance such as carts, dollies, or pallet jacks when lifting or moving heavy objects
- Maintain good posture when sitting, standing, or lifting, especially when doing so for extended periods of time
At Colorado Occupational Medical Partners, our mission is to deliver the highest quality of occupational health care and physical rehabilitation to return patients to their highest level of function. Our team is dedicated to helping employers and patients, and we strive to develop strong, positive relationships with a culture based on safety, transparency, empathy, and trust. To find out more, find our location nearest to you.
Let Colorado Occupational Medical Partners be your source for occupational therapies and care in Colorado.