Essential Safety Features in the Workplace
Health and Safety has come a long way in the workplace. Not only do in-house safety features make the workplace safer, but they make workers happier and more productive. By investing in the safety of your employees, you show them that you care about them personally, rather than seeing them as a replaceable resource.
Every workplace is different, and so are the safety features that they need. Safety basic principles To be relevant to all workplaces, occupational health and safety works under the philosophy of managing basic problems using simple in-house safety features. The modern methodology is to create a safe workplace from the floor upwards. Floor space and flooring The floor is the most occupied space in any building, so is unsurprisingly the scene of nearly all workplace accidents. The floor in every workplace requires good safety management to prevent hazards. If your workplace is a production line, you might also be interested in how to keep production floors safe. There are some guidelines that are general to every business, and many features that can make any area safer. General safety features include:
- Non-slip flooring solutions: Critical safety measures for pretty much any workplace is adequate slip protection. Non slip matting can be installed to protect workers from slips. As well as actual non slip mats, some workplaces apply non-slip surfaces to standard flooring.
- Access management: Floor access areas, particularly entrances and exits, need to include surface management to ensure safety. In addition to being non slip, they need to be sturdy and even prevent trips and falls. Most importantly, floors need to be kept clear at all times. There is never a good reason for items to be left lying around because the consequences of an accident are just too severe.
- Floor surface protection: In high use areas, floors of any kind are subject to severe wear and tear. This creates trip hazards and uneven surfaces. The best practice solution is to manage access with dedicated areas and safe surfacing materials. Entrance matting is a great option to protect the floors and keep maintenance costs down, for carpets and hard floors. If your workplace has office chairs, chair mats can help to protect the floors and reduce the strain on workers' backs when wheeling around.
- Ergonomic floors: Studies have shown that reducing “rebound” from hard surfaces improves staff health, prevents fatigue, and reduces the risk of fall injuries. New measures include everything from anti fatigue matting at workstations to high-density carpets which minimizes leg fatigue and reduce fall injury risks.
- Garbage facilities: Keeping your workplace clean and tidy is important for morale and generally being a good adult, but it is also an important safety precaution. Keeping litter off the floors and surfaces prevents bacteria from breeding and accidents from happening as a result. Leftover banana peels might be the most comical example of this, but really any rubbish can create a hazard.
COVID Safety Since the 2020 pandemic, workplaces across every industry have seen an increase in personal hygiene measures. While improved hygiene is a direct reaction to COVID, it might be a good idea to keep up with practices like regular handwashing after it all settles down.
- Hand cleaning facilities: Hand sanitiser at entrances and exits is a new regulation for most workplaces, but it won't be news to workplaces that handle food or healthcare. It is actually more beneficial for workers to wash their hands the old fashioned way than to use hand sanitiser, but where a sink and soap are not available, han-san is the next best thing.
- Facemasks: Facemasks are important for workers handling food or other fresh produce because they prevent germs from spreading between humans via said produce. Since COVID, service professionals also might wear facemasks, but that depends on the industry and area.
- Surface cleaning: Anywhere that sees customers or products will likely have been well-cleaned before the pandemic, but now surfaces are thoroughly disinfected between users. Libraries, hotels and banks are regularly disinfected to keep COVID out, and that is likely to be the case for a while.
Child-related safety If your workplace cares for children, there are heightened health and safety regulations that you must follow. Most children have less common sense than adults and find it harder to remember instructions. Children are also more likely to spread germs and disease, as they typically get closer to one another. Although lawsuits can result from any workplace accident, they tend to be more prolific and have higher settlements when they involve children.
- Protection from disease: Some illnesses, such as cytomegalovirus (CMV), are prevalent in children and can cause serious illness in immunocompromised people. Any childcare institution should have handwashing and other cleaning facilities nearby, similar to COVID safety measures.
- Slips, trips and falls prevention: As with businesses that require workers to be on their feet all day, children's facilities must install adequate safety matting to prevent accidents. Stair nosing and handrails are also essential safety features in schools, preschools and universities.
- Electrical harm prevention: Children and electricity do not mix, so unless you're teaching a technology class, it needs to be covered. Cable protectors should cover any trailing cables and any plug sockets should be covered around very young children.
Specialised hazard prevention Some industries have specialised risks - for example, firefighters and welders both need to reduce the risk of burns, while hotels and restaurants need greaseproof mats. Spend some time working out which (if any) specialised safety mats your business needs. Some specialised safety precautions are:
- Electrical safety: Basic procedures for electrical safety include cabling, equipment and work station location, managing electronic equipment peripherals, and regular safety checks for electrical faults. Best practice electrical safety features include power surge protection, circuit breakers and a good OHS reporting system for faulty electrical equipment.
- Fire safety: The workplace should be checked by safety professionals for any potential fire risk. Best practice fire safety features include fire extinguishers, fireproof cabinets, sprinklers, fire-resistant materials, good navigational aids clearly displayed for emergencies, clear exits and good fire drill practice.
- Hazardous materials storage facilities: Many materials in the workplace are potential safety hazards, including chemicals, flammable materials, workplace stores, paints, varnish and many more. Secure storage is essential and should relate directly to both access needs and waste management.
- Toxic waste management: While all waste should be disposed of properly, some types are toxic. Some are risky if they spill, and others may cause reactions just by being inhaled. Waste materials can also be considered potential fire hazards. Secure, sealed storage features, combined with a safe, uncluttered waste management area are the best answer.
As each workplace is different - even within the same industry - there is no way to list every single essential safety feature. It is important to conduct your own risk assessment and check your area's regulations. Some managers might find it useful to talk to an OHS expert and get an onsite inspection. They will be able to make sure that your workplace is safe and compliant. For support in choosing the perfect specialised or general safety mat, feel free to reach out to one of our matxperts using the chat function below.