How to Ensure Employee Safety in the Workplace

Keeping your employees safe in the workplace is a given. Their welfare determines not only the productivity of your operations but also has huge legal implications – South Africa’s labour law is one of the most comprehensive in the world. Ensuring safety, health, environment and quality compliance has become a huge priority in the workplace.

There are various laws regulating ways and means to ensure safety, health, environment and quality requirements are met to keep employees safe at all times. It is the responsibility of you as employer to ensure that these regulations are followed to prevent any harm.

We’ve compiled some ways for you to ensure safety, health, environment and quality compliance among your employees.

Be alert and aware of your surroundings

All employees must be aware of potential hazards and be vigilant against any action that can cause an accident. Place signs around the workplace to remind them of these potential hazards.

Prevent slips, trips and falls

These are some of the leading causes of safety, health, environment and quality injuries and incidents in the workplace. Ensure that there are no obstacles over which employees can trip and fall, and make sure walking surfaces are dry and non-slip. Cleaning protocols such as proper drainage and the correct cleaning materials for oil spills.

Prevent fire hazards

Make sure all combustible materials are handled in the correct manner and kept in a safe and suitable place. Flammable liquids should be handled with extreme care and any contaminated clothes should be changed immediately. Ensure passageways and doors are kept clear of obstacles and have an evacuation plan visible and made available to all employees, with regular safety, health, environment and quality evacuation drills. Importantly, have the correct and necessary fire extinguishing tools available throughout the premises.

Prevent falling objects

Make sure that boxes and material is stacked securely and have the necessary support where needed to ensure safety, health, environment and quality compliance. There should be railings to prevent stacks from tumbling. Keep heavier objects on lower shelves and lighter objects at the top. Place objects well away from the edges of shelves and other surfaces. Do not stack objects in areas where employees walk often.

Prevent dust accumulation

Even 1cm of dust covering as little as 5% of a room’s surface can be a significant fire or dust explosion hazard, so you need to regularly remove dust from the entire premises. While vacuuming is the preferred safety, health, environment and quality method of getting rid of dust, sweeping and water-down methods can also be used. Dust can also negatively affect the performance and lifespan of some types of equipment and machinery, as well as case malfunction and accidents.

Clear clutter

Clutter causes more objects and hazards such as falling objects, which need to be avoided. It means that employees have less space in which to move, which poses another safety, health, environment and quality hazard -equipment and machinery need the correct amount of space when in operation to operate safely. Keep passageways, stairways, doors and emergency exits tidy and clear of clutter; and empty trash bins before they overflow.

Ensure that all employees wear the right PPE

While failure to wear the right PPE (personal protective equipment) as required is a big cause of safety, health, environment and quality incidents in the workplace, employees tend to have an innate resistance to wearing and using it. This is not negotiable – you need to ensure that all employees are aware of the required PPE, and wear it when and where needed. This includes hard hats, goggles, gloves, earmuffs, earplugs, breathing masks and safety boots.

Inspect and maintain PPE correctly

Wearing PPE in safety, health, environment and quality compliance doesn’t matter if the PPE is damaged or faulty. This makes it important to regularly inspect PPE and repair or replace it where necessary. Correct maintenance and storage goes hand in hand with this: make sure the PPE is cleaned and maintained on a daily basis and stored correctly to ensure its lifespan. Your employees’ lives may depend on this, so it needs to be treated as a serious matter.

Store all materials and objects properly

In addition to preventing slips, trips and falls as well as falling objects and fire hazards, you also need to ensure that materials are stored safely and in the correct way to avoid the materials themselves becoming hazardous. An example would be storing a ladder in front of an electrical panel, creating a potential fire hazard, or storing flammable materials in a badly ventilated space. Have designated storage spaces for all materials and ensure that these are SHEQ compliant.

Proper use of equipment and machinery

Using tools the wrong way is a sure-fire way of getting hurt – ensure that all employees are trained in the correct and safe use of all equipment and machinery. Tools and equipment should be used for its intended purpose and nothing else: if someone needs to reach something, use a ladder and not a stack of boxes. No shortcuts!

Protect your body by using the correct posture

Compliance is also important when it comes to less obvious safety, health, environment and quality hazards: something as small as the wrong angle of a monitor or screen can cause employees harm. Ensure that all employees take care of their physical health and avoid damage to their backs, necks and arms by maintaining the correct posture at all times – this can mean adjusting a chair at a desk to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome to learning how to pick up a heavy object with the correct posture to avoid back injuries.

Regular breaks

People can only maintain full concentration and remain alert for so long, so set up regular breaks to make sure all employees stay fresh and focused. Fatigue can cause fatal errors, so monitor the levels of fatigue in your employees and make sure they rest often.

Keep rules in writing

Have written copies of the rules and regulations regarding the safety, health, environment and quality policies and procedures and have each employee sign that they understand and accept these. This can be considered legally binding. In addition to this, make signs of all the major safety, health, environment and quality compliance principles prominently displayed around the premises, with copies of legislation also put up where all employees can access it, e.g. in the cafeteria or the rest rooms.

Report any potential hazards or dangerous conditions

All workplaces require a safety officer responsible for all safety, health, environment and quality matters. Employees should be able to report any threats, risks, faulty equipment, potential hazards and dangerous conditions to this safety officer. In lieu of the safety officer, they need to alert their supervisor or management in order to deal with the issue immediately or take measures to avoid it until it can be taken care of.

Keeping your employees safe and staying in compliance with safety, health, environment and quality regulations need not be a mountainous task – just follow these simple guidelines. Keep an eye out for some more great tips in the next two parts of this article.

SHEQX is a comprehensive, world-class safety, health, environment and quality solution that will help you create and implement all the systems, policies and procedures necessary to keep on top of your safety, health, environment and quality needs.