Louisiana had 120 workplace fatalities in 2014. People woke up, got ready, kissed the kids and the dog, left for work and never returned home. A fair number of these accidents were vehicle-related and some were in inherently dangerous industries, but 15 were related to simple slips, trips and falls, which may have been preventable.
It’s the responsibility of every business in this state to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for their employees and clients. Even if your business is small, there is training available to you as a business owner or manager to make your workplace safer. There is also training you should routinely conduct with employees to make them aware of your procedures. To learn more, we spoke with Damona Barnes, a training and development specialist with Barriere Construction in New Orleans.
Here’s what your small business needs to know about safety training.
Just because you work in accounting and not in mining doesn’t mean you don’t need to consider safety an important part of your office culture. Injuries can and do happen in professional settings.
A big hazard in an office environment is musculoskeletal injury, Barnes says. These can result from repetitive tasks and awkward body posture. Think carpal tunnel syndrome or lower back issues from sitting all day. Ergonomics training can help you minimize awkward desk setups and encourage workers to have better posture. There are also software programs and apps that force users to take a short break at certain intervals; this can encourage stretching to improve blood flow, allow time away from repetitive tasks and let people give their eyes a rest from the computer screen, she says.
Other important training you should conduct is related to safe egress. Barnes says she once worked in an office where she took the elevator every day and realized later that she wasn’t even sure where the stairs were. In the event of a fire or other emergency that made it unsafe to use the elevator, she would not have known where to go. It’s possible people at your office have similar gaps in their knowledge about emergency procedures. Routinely remind everyone where the emergency exits are located and make sure these paths are never blocked with items or wires.
If your small business does work in construction or other industrial areas, there are many more industry-specific safety hazards you’ll want to train on. Some that Barnes recommends are the OSHA 10-hour and 30-hour courses. The 10-hour course gives an overview of common job and health hazards, while the longer course is intended for supervisors or those with more safety responsibility, she says.
Other common construction or industrial training includes forklift certification, lockout-tagout training to make sure hazardous equipment is shut down properly and hazard communication if dangerous materials will be handled, she says. “CPR and first aid is recommended for these individuals as well,” she says.
Now that you know which areas you should focus on, how do you begin to educate yourself and your staff on safety matters? Begin with an inspection, Barnes says. “OSHA will come to you, walk your property and do a free safety inspection,” she says. Companies sometimes don’t want to do this for fear of penalties, but OSHA just wants to help get you on the right track. Its inspection won’t result in penalties, she says.
Once you develop a plan with OSHA, stick to it and fix any issues that were uncovered. Then keep up-to-date with routine inspections by using an auditing and inspection app. Barnes suggests iAuditor, which has customizable settings for safety conditions at your workplace.
Make training a routine part of your culture, she says. Aim to do something involving safety at least once a quarter or once a month for office staff. People in the field should have some type of safety training or reminders every week. Fire and evacuation drills should be done annually.