Walt Disney once said regarding criticism, “Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long… we keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
Safety is about curiosity. It’s about seeking to improve by questioning, inquiring; it’s not about blaming others or perpetually finding faults with systems; it begins with a curiosity to change things for the better, making a safer workplace for all.
There is no job so urgent that we don’t have time to do it safely.
Manual Handling, Sprain and Strain Injuries
The prevention of sprain and strain injuries represents one of our biggest opportunities to reduce injuries. We need to look after our backs, shoulders, knees, and other joints and muscles etc. Our retirement years ought to be the best they can be, but if we haven’t looked after our bodies it’ll be worth less to us.
Proper human movement is about correct technique where muscles are used and there is less strain on connective tissue (ligaments and tendons) to do the work. If you get a sore back it can be due to overused ligaments or tendons (tendonitis) and disproportionate spinal disc loading, leading to more serious problems. We need to look after our bodies if we’re to age gracefully!
Correct lifting involves:
– keeping the spine’s natural “S” curve as much as possible by bending the knees and keeping the back straight;
– creating a bridge (shoulder width stance);
– grasping the object with a good, safe grip;
– keeping the head looking slightly up (keeping the curve in the cervical spine); and
– ensuring there’s no twist in the spine as we lift.
We need to plan the lift, and employ team lifting and mechanical aids wherever possible. It’s good to stretch several times a day especially when we use repetitive movements or sit at a computer.
Akin to the more chronic type of strain or sprain injury, ergonomics is the fit of the worker to the workplace (environment) and the work (procedures) in creating behaviour. People often focus on the potential for other safety incidents and ergonomics is frequently forgotten.
Ergonomic workstations assessments are a key injury prevention strategy, especially for office-based workers. Many office workers have suffered repetitive strain injury (RSI), otherwise known as Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS). Once someone has a musculoskeletal illness or disease it can take months and even years to properly heal. Prevention is far better than cure.
Alcohol and Other Drugs
Every responsible employer has an Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy. In our society the use and abuse of these substances creates problems in every workplace.
The main issue is impairment. If someone is impaired by alcohol or other drugs in the workplace they place both themselves and others at risk of serious injury, even death.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are critical in both the proactive treatment of dependency to substances, and for rehabilitation. Company policies focus on education, and empowering employees to self-identify and self-manage substance use and abuse issues.
Disciplinary issues are the last resort, but are often required in managing affected employees through rehabilitation.
Resolving hazards and reducing risks in the workplace is critical–we all play a part. If you can fix a hazard or make it safe you need to do that first, and then report it. Don’t forget to involve your Safety and Health Representative. Safety Committees also have a role to address these issues.
There should be no safety issue that can’t be resolved to all parties’ satisfaction, and an escalating process can help achieve this.
Take Five Program and Risk Management
TAKE 5 in your work. Stop and think before each task to try and identify what could go wrong. If in doubt, simply ask. Involve your supervisor if you feel there is risk of injury or harm in the work you’re doing.
Risk management is three simple steps: hazard identification, risk assessment and control. Hazards should be assessed for both likelihood (how often you’re exposed to the hazard COMBINED with the probability of it occurring) and consequence.
Risk management’s main objective is to reduce both likelihood and consequence, but minimising consequences of incidents always prevails because people will always make errors and mistakes.
Employee Duty of Care
This means you must:
– Care for your own safety and that of others.
– Comply with ALL instructions you’re given to protect the safety of yourself and others.
– Use ALL equipment (including Personal Protective Equipment) appropriately and as trained and instructed.
– Report EVERY incident, whether it’s an injury/illness, near-miss, or property damage.
Know your key emergency numbers and procedures. You never know when you’ll need them. Alarms are tested at regular times each week.
Know your work controls. The company will provide the relevant training in work permitting systems, as required and appropriate.
Remember, there is no job so urgent that we don’t have time to do it safely. You do not need to take short cuts for any reason. Ensure you carry out all your duties responsibly, reporting to your supervisor any situation causing concern.
 Sprain injuries occur to harder connective tissue i.e. ligaments and tendons. Strain injuries occur to soft tissue i.e. muscles; muscles recover from injury approximately 4-5 times quicker than connective tissue does.