These 5 Dangerous Workplace Scenarios Can Be Avoided. Here's How.

News Article L O T O Program

As an employer, you have many obligations. You need to keep your company successful.

Bringing in profit is at the heart of all business, right? It keeps your business growing and lets you keep paying your employees.

Paying your employees isn't your only obligation to them, though. Keeping a safe workplace environment should be your number one priority. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018, there were 2.8 million non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses. There were 5,250 fatalities.  

After overexertion and slips and falls, the third-highest category of accidents involves contact with objects and equipment. Laborers who work around machinery are struck, pinched, shocked, or even crushed by the machines essential to their work. Not only are workers at risk, but employers, too.  

In 2018, the average medically consulted injury cost for the employer was $41,000, while the average cost per death was $1,190,000. That's a lot of money for any employer.  

Here are 5 easily-avoidable workplace scenarios that could lead to employee injury or even death. 

  1. Trash Compactor - Many businesses have trash compactors. They're so common that workers use them without really thinking about them. If one becomes jammed or needs servicing, a maintenance person will likely need to climb down into the belly of the compactor. When the next person comes along and tosses in a trash bag and hits the button, the maintenance worker is crushed.
  2. Conveyor Belt - Conveyor belts use a lot of moving parts. If one becomes stuck or jammed and requires servicing, it needs to be turned off. If someone turns it back on while it's being serviced, the person doing the work can get caught in the mechanisms leading to anything from a few scratches to a crushed limb or even death.
  3. Electrical Repair - A piece of equipment needs some work on its wiring. Not a big deal. It's a common enough occurrence. The worker shuts off the main power supply and gets to work. A secondary machine is turned on that has connections to the first machine, causing electricity to flow through it, causing electric shock to the worker.
  4. Vehicle Collisions - Vehicles, from heavy trucks to necessary forklifts, are essential tools in many workplaces. But accidents can quickly happen. If a maintenance worker works in an area where the forklift typically loads heavy pallets, and the forklift driver does not see the worker, the worker could be injured or crushed.
  5. Open Flame/Spark - Welders fix things. It's what they do. But a byproduct of their work is a shower of sparks. A smart welder will clear the work area of any flammable material and shut off any natural gas lines nearby. But, if a welder is working and someone else notices that some equipment isn't working, the gas is turned off. They may open that valve back up, and you can guess what happens next.

Workplace Accidents Like These Are Preventable 

You may have noticed that each of those scenarios had a common theme. Someone was doing work that required a machine or valve to be completely shut down for them to complete the job safely. Then, someone else unknowingly came by and turned it back on.  

The following workplace safety scenarios address how to prevent common accidents:

  • Electrical Hazard Safety: Before working in an area with electrical devices, wear protective equipment and inspect the area for uninsulated wires, ripped or broken cords, and exposed circuits. If electrical equipment must be used, ensure that you isolate the area. Make strict policies for banning work on faulty electrical equipment.
  • Machinery Hazard Prevention: Employers should first organize frequent and regular risk assessments. All operators must wear personal protective equipment and undergo thorough training prior to operating heavy machinery. Lastly, all tools and machinery should be routinely maintained and replaced if non-functioning.
  • Fire Prevention: Inflammable materials should not be placed near initiation sources, like electrical outlets. Power circuits should have the minimum required connections. Do not overload circuits. A fire response system should be implemented, including setting up several visible fire exits, installing fire alarms and extinguishers, and organizing random fire drills throughout the year.

For any workplace hazard,  an emergency system should be established for reporting and documenting accidents. One of the most important purposes of an incident reporting system is hazard surveillance to create safety procedures should the need arise. 

If your business requires an employee to work in an area that is potentially hazardous or with machinery that can be harmful, the first step is assigning rigorous safety training so that your employees are aware of how to avoid dangerous situations. 

What is a Lockout/Tagout Program? 

If you're thinking that workplace safety requires better communication, you're only partly right. To safely work in situations like these, the worker needs to communicate the machine's need to be left alone and make it impossible to turn on.  

The way to do this properly is with a lockout/tagout program (LOTO). 

When used properly, a LOTO program effectively prevents anyone from operating machinery while someone else is performing maintenance or is in any way in danger if the machine is running. It involves shutting down the machinery and disconnecting all power sources. It also should include warning tags to alert other employees that the device is not to be used and a lock to make it impossible for the machine to be turned on during the maintenance.  

The key to an excellent lockout tagout program is training. The person who does the work needs to know all of the proper steps to completing a LOTO procedure. But more than that, every employee who may come near that machine needs to understand how a LOTO program works and why it is so important.  

LOTO Saves Lives and Money 

While the apparent reason to employ a LOTO program is to keep your employees safe, it's also a smart financial move for any company. Not only are accidents expensive, but there are also federal regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Organization (OSHA) that require LOTO programs for some machinery. It's one of the most frequently cited violations each year, and those citations can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Per OSHA, LOTO program compliance annually prevents around 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries. With each job injury, employers may lose workers for an average of 24 work days due to recuperation.

If you are interested in learning more about a lockout tagout program, download our free, informational PDF. It's the first step to a safer workplace.