Every industry has associated safety hazards, and while construction, trucking and logging rate among the most hazardous occupations, workers in industrial facilities, such as factories, meat processing plants and the like, face life-threatening dangers every day. The list of risks in industrial setups is endless, ranging from slip-and-fall accidents to amputations or electrocutions. While every business owner has a responsibility to protect the safety and health of his or her employees, many unfortunately prioritize profits.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration prescribes strict safety regulations, and your employers must ensure compliance. However, if you leave it solely up to them to protect you from harm, you may be at the highest risk.
The value of safety training
Falls and other incidents in industrial facilities can cause fractured bones, open wounds, strains, sprains, and more. With adequate knowledge of the potential hazards of the workplace and effective safety training, you, as an employee, can lessen the severity and frequency of on-the-job injuries to you and your co-workers. Proper safety training can eliminate or minimize many of the following hazards:
- Falls — Not many people recognize the threat of falls in industrial facilities where, for example, a trip hazard can cause a worker to fall from an elevated walkway into a tank of toxic chemicals. The primary cause of death in workplace accidents nationwide is fall accidents, and many of those fatalities were preventable. Fall protection, such as harnesses, safety nets, control-lines and warning signs near edges, can be useful answers for this hazard, and safety training can ensure proper use of these items.
- Equipment — When it comes to machinery and equipment, the biggest hazard may be a lack of training. Never agree to operate a piece of equipment if you are not qualified to do so — this includes forklifts and other mechanical lift trucks. Furthermore, only skilled maintenance workers must clean or repair equipment, and this should never occur before de-energizing the machine. Frequent risk assessments can identify defects on machines, and removing them from service could be critical to your safety.
- Ergonomics — Muscle strains, sprains, back injuries and fractures often result from poor practices and the failure to carry out risk assessments. Proper training in materials handling, the use of protective equipment and body mechanics can eliminate the potential for many physical injuries. Training employees to assess risks as they move about the workplace may lead to early interventions that could limit these hazards.
First aid for medical emergencies — If you have the opportunity to receive first-aid training, take advantage of it. While it will allow you to deal with minor cuts and bruises, it may save a life in an emergency while awaiting the arrival of paramedics or other rescuers. The ability to perform CPR and stabilize an injured co-worker can be invaluable.
While some workers may regard safety-training sessions as a waste of time, you shouldn't underestimate their value. They can give you a better understanding of risk assessment, which will reduce the prospect of suffering catastrophic injuries. Medical expenses and lost income are compensable through the workers' compensation insurance program. However, proper safety training might mean the difference in claiming for medical expenses only, rather than for occupational rehabilitation because you suffered a devastating injury that jeopardized your ability to return to your current role.