There are many ways employees can be injured on the job. Unfortunately, employees’ behaviors can contribute to injuries when they take safety shortcuts. There are many examples of when a safety shortcut contributes to severe injuries.
This post discusses why safety shortcuts are dangerous and common shortcuts that can lead to severe injuries.
Why Safety Shortcuts are Dangerous
There are many safety rules that are well-known due to the severe consequences that can result if not followed. Unfortunately, employees can become complacent due to working around common hazards and choose to take shortcuts when it comes to safety. Inexperience can also lead employees to take safety shortcuts.
There are many reasons why an employee may choose not to follow safety rules. As stated, complacency is a significant contributor to employees taking shortcuts. Other reasons include the company’s culture may promote taking these risks, an employee may feel a sense of urgency, or they may rationalize that nothing bad will happen if they take the risk.
Four Common Safety Shortcuts
Below are four common safety shortcuts that can result in severe injuries or death. The shortcuts that are discussed in this post are not wearing personal protective equipment, working at heights without safeguards in place, working on energized equipment, and being in the line of fire.
Shortcut #1: Not Wearing Personal Protective Equipment
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is the last line of defense when protecting employees from injuries, but PPE is still a vital safeguard in reducing the severity of injuries when exposed to a hazard. There are many occupations that require the use of personal protective equipment at almost all times.
For example, construction workers almost should always be wearing safety glasses, hardhats, and gloves due to the wide array of hazards they are exposed to throughout the workday. Other occupations have similar or even more stringent requirements when it comes to PPE use.
Not Wearing Safety Glasses
According to the CDC, 2,000 U.S. workers sustain a job-related eye injury that requires medical treatment. One-third of these injuries are treated in an emergency room.
Employees can prevent most eye injuries by simply wearing approved safety glasses. Safety glasses protect employees’ eyes from a variety of hazards in the workplace. All too often, employees choose not to wear their eye protection.
Not Wearing Hardhats
Hardhats are required to be worn by employees when overhead hazards are present. This requirement means there are many employees who should be wearing a hardhat every single day. Work activities such as lifting and rigging, scaffolding work, and general construction or maintenance work at elevated levels can create hazards for employees working on the ground level.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are more than 50,000 “struck-by falling objects” recordable injuries every single year in the United States. While the elimination of hazards or engineering controls are more effective in protecting employees from dropped objects, hardhats play a critical role in reducing the severity of injury in the event that an object is dropped and strikes the head of an employee.
Not Wearing Gloves
Just like other PPE, gloves may not completely prevent an employee from suffering a hand or finger injury, but they are vital in at least reducing the severity of injury if an employee is exposed to a hazard. Common hand and finger injuries include burns, lacerations, crushes, and amputations.
Gloves should be worn in many workplaces, and if they are not, severe injuries can be sustained. The consequences of hand and finger injuries can be life-changing for the employees who experience them.
Shortcut #2: Working at Heights without Safeguards in Place
Falls to a lower level are a leading cause of death in the workplace. In fact, falls to lower levels are reported to be responsible for well over 30% of all construction industry fatalities year after year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There are many workplaces where employees are allowed to work at heights without the proper fall prevention methods or fall protection equipment being worn, even though it is against OSHA regulations. On the other hand, there are many employers and workplaces that prohibit working at heights without the proper safeguards in place, but employees choose to put themselves in danger.
Employees will often choose to work at heights for just a few seconds or minutes because it may take more time to follow the correct safety protocol. Complacency or inexperience contributes to employees choosing to work at heights without the proper safeguards in place.
Employees should never work at heights unless there are effective fall prevention methods in place, such as a guardrail system. Employees may also safely work at heights if they wear approved fall protection equipment, such as a full-body harness and lanyard.
While it may take additional time to follow the correct safety protocols, it may make all the difference in preventing serious injury or death.
Shortcut #3: Working on Energized Equipment
Working on energized equipment is one of the most common and potentially deadly safety shortcuts an employee can take. To safely work on, service, or repair equipment, the proper safeguards must be followed.
Following lockout/tagout procedures and properly de-energizing equipment prior to work beginning is the most effective safeguard one can take when completing these work tasks. The perceived problem is that doing so takes too much time, and the actual task that needs to be completed will only take a minute.
This shortcut is also commonly made by employees who are trying to clear a jam in a machine. Instead of taking the time to follow the correct safety protocols, they choose to try to do the task while the machine is still live. This choice can lead to devasting consequences.
Shortcut #4: Being in the Line of Fire
Putting oneself in the line of fire frequently, or more simply, in harm’s way is a sure way to experience a workplace injury at some point. There are many examples of what it means to be in the line of fire. The example above of trying to clear a jam in a live machine is an example of putting oneself in harm’s way.
The hazard is there but it poses no threat to anyone unless an employee chooses to put themselves in a position where they are now exposed to the hazard.
Other common examples of being in the line of fire include:
- Walking or standing under a lifted load.
- Walking or standing in the blind spot of moving equipment.
- Entering an unprotected trench.
- Putting one’s body where pressure is being released.
In all of the examples above, the hazard is still present. The load can drop, the equipment could reverse suddenly, the trench could collapse, and pressure could be released, but an employee does not get exposed to the hazard if they are not in the line of fire.
The above common safety shortcuts are just a few of a possible many. If employees followed the proper safety protocols related to just the shortcuts above, there would be much fewer injuries and fatalities in the workplace.
The employee is not always to blame for injuries but unfortunately taking shortcuts or making unsafe decisions often contributes to injuries. It is vital to not become complacent to the hazards in the workplace and to stay vigilant to prevent injuries.
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