In every company, there are many risks related to HSE and work environment that any CEO would be wise to consider.
Being aware of these risks and working to solve them can be beneficial to your organisation. If workers are thriving both physically and mentally it will result in reduced sickness absence as well as higher productivity.
In this article, we will cover 5 types of hazards in the workplace that, if left unattended to, can cause problems for your company in several ways. Consequences of an unsafe or unhealthy work environment include high employee turnover, unflattering media exposure and lawsuits. We will delve into the potential consequences of these risks and how to prevent them. Remember, your overall risk assessment of the workplace is a critical part of maintaining a safe and healthy work environment.
Therefore, let’s dive into the top 5 hazards and risks in the workplace that any CEO should be aware of:
1) Injuries from Work Environment
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK say that the latest injuries at work statistics for 2017/18 show that too many workers are still being injured or made ill by their work. Despite the UK continuing to be one of the safest places to work, key figures show that in 2017/18 there were:
1.4 million working people suffering from a work-related illness
144 workers were killed at work
What can be done:
Incorporate a safety and wellness plan. The foundation for a safe work environment is an effective accident prevention and wellness program.
Educate employees and management staff. Continually cultivate a safety standard among employees and management staff. Train employees about the importance of following safety measures as often as possible.
Research safety vulnerabilities. Every business is unique and doesn’t necessarily have the same safety concerns.
Provide protection equipment. Personal protection equipment is essential and should be enforced at hiring, meetings, and with spontaneous monitoring.
Have adequate staffing levels
More often than not, overtime hours are implemented because of low staffing levels. Overworked employees may suffer from exhaustion and cut corners to meet or exceed output
Don’t take shortcuts
Accidents happen when employees skip steps to complete a job ahead of schedule. Make sure all instructions are clear and organized to prevent undue mishaps in the workplace.
Monitor safety measures
After initial training, reinforce safety measures at every opportunity, i.e. staff meetings, supervision, and education.
2) Incorrect Manual Handling
According to the HSE, incorrect manual handling is one of the most common causes of injury at work. It causes work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) which account for over a third of all workplace injuries.
What can be done:
Heavy lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling
To prevent health problems, make sure workers are provided with lifting equipment or conveyor belts to lift and move heavy objects. There are many modern technical solutions that alleviate the need for manual work. If this is not possible, make sure workers receive proper instructions on correct working technique. Plan the work so that materials are unloaded or placed close to the place of work, so as little carrying as possible is required. Make sure that each worker only carries out this type of work for a smaller part of the workday.
Repetitive and high tempo work
Back and neck are strained by turning repeatedly or for a long time. Work with hand-held tools are also straining for arms and wrists over longer periods of time, especially if force is required. Make sure that this work is interspersed with plenty of breaks or other types of less straining work. Make sure that there has been given enough time for the work, so that working very quickly isn’t necessary.
Make sure workers have the correct working height for work tables (e.g. with adjustable tables). Bending over work tables puts a lot of strain on the back. Work done above head-height or at ground level are especially straining. Make sure office workers who work on computers have high quality desk chairs and that the static work is supplemented with tasks that require them to stand up and walk around regularly. Alternatively, encourage standing up at desks. Provide enough light as inadequate lighting can make workers lean in to see better, putting strain on back and neck.
3) Psychosocial and Mental Health Issues
Working conditions and environment can have a huge impact on mental health and, equally, someone's mental health can have a significant impact to perform well in their job.
According to the Mental Health Foundation UK, 1 in 6.8 people experience mental health problems in the workplace (14.7%). Women in full-time employment are nearly twice as likely to have a common mental health problem as full-time employed men (19.8% vs 10.9%). Evidence suggests that 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions.
A bad psychological work environment can cause stress and burnout and often results in a high number of sick days, low productivity, conflicts and high employee turnover.
People who are exposed to a bad psychological work environment can have trouble concentrating and remembering things and can be nervous, sad and tired.
Work relations are the biggest cause of these illnesses followed by high-quantity work demands.
Better mental health support in the workplace can save UK businesses up to £8 billion per year.
What can be done:
Be alert to any conflicts in the workplace, that may escalate to personal attacks and offensive actions against any workers. Be especially vigilant if the offensive actions are not once-off but continue over time and if workers are unable to defend themselves. Look out for any sexually offensive behaviour. Make sure to have an open dialogue between workers and managers about any problems. Management should avoid making the problem about the individual and should communicate clearly that such behaviour is not tolerated.
Do not cram contracts and work which would result in workers constantly pressed for time. Make room in the work plans for unforeseen tasks that come up. Pay attention to the quality and quantitative demands: short deadlines combined with a demand for high quality work can easily create stress, so focus on planning tasks well. Make sure that workers have open communication with managers about how the work is going and receive constructive feedback.
4) Chemical Risks
Chemical exposure is at least partly responsible for many skin conditions, respiratory illnesses, cancers and reproductive health issues. Other worries are the potential causes for reproductive health issues.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, they estimated in 2016/2017 that there were 13,000 deaths each year linked to past exposure to chemicals or dust at work.
Chemical risks are often harder to track because many symptoms from chemical exposure only start to show up after years of exposure. If workers have been working with many different chemical products over a long period of time, then which one caused the symptoms? At the same time, many other factors can contribute to the same health problems that chemical exposure causes.
Dangerous chemical exposure is caused by a wide range of chemical products like: Epoxy, solvents, fuel, oils, styrene and many, many others. Fumes, smoke and dust created by production process create additional health hazards.
What can be done:
Find out if chemicals products are dangerous by looking at the red and white pictograms on the label and reading their safety data sheets (SDS) for further instructions.
Complete a thorough risk assessment of your local use of chemical products based on information in the SDSs. Consider also which dangerous substances are created as a part of the work process (smoke, dust and fumes).
Substitute dangerous chemicals with safer alternatives. If substitution is not possible then attempt to minimize exposure as much as possible by using organisational- and technical measures. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a last resort for jobs where no other measures can be used as PPE is the most prone to human error.
Give workers adequate and frequent instructions in safe handling, storage and disposal of dangerous chemicals.
Make sure to keep your safety data sheets updated. New chemical dangers are discovered frequently for known chemical products, so be sure to have the newest information available for your chemical risk assessment.
5) Loud Noise
Hearing conditions account for quite a large proportion of total work-related illnesses and are most often reported in manufacturing and construction.
According to the HSE, The Control of Noise at Work Regulations came into force for all industry sectors in Great Britain on 6 April 2006. The aim of the Noise Regulations is to ensure that workers' hearing is protected from excessive noise at their place of work, which could cause them to lose their hearing and/or to suffer from tinnitus.
Hearing conditions are caused by loud noise in the workplace, either by sudden very loud noises or loud noise over a long period of time. Workers run the risk of hearing damage and tinnitus, but loud noise can also cause stress, high blood pressure and increased fatigue.
What can be done:
Measure the noise level and duration of noise. Hearing damage can both be caused by very loud noises sudden noises and loud noises for a longer time, so measure both constant and peak noise in all work processes.
Buy less noisy machinery if possible and provide hearing protection that are comfortable for people to wear and that fit well (e.g. cover ears well while also wearing safety goggles).