October is Ontario’s Healthy Workplace Month and this week, October 22nd-27th is Workplace Safety Week. In that spirit, we will be discussing common workplace safety issues and ways that you can prevent them, whether you are an employee or an employer.

1. Communicable diseases and the flu

A Communicable disease is an infectious disease that is transmittable from person to person and by indirect means such as an airborne disease. The workplace is a great breeding ground for germs and in some offices the only people that clean it are the night time cleaning staff; many of which might not be instructed to clean desk areas; just the floor and garbages. It’s a good practice to clean your work station every morning, especially if you share the space with others.

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Even if the policy in your workplace is to encourage staff to use their sick days, a lot of employees feel as though their employers become upset with them actually using the sick days and sometimes even retaliate passive aggressively. Make sure that you actually encourage employees to use their sick days when they are contagious and consider structuring your business in such a way that someone whom is contagious but still able to function can work from home using flexible sick hours.

2. Transportation accidents

According to CoverHound Insurance, the highest percentage of car accidents occurs between 6pm and 9pm, which is evening rush hour. “Commuters rush home daily to eat, spend time with their families, watch television and/or get to work on a second job.”1 Aside from rushing to get home or onto their next activity, people in the work force might be lacking sleep and overworked. This level of exhaustion does not pair well with other people rushing around traffic trying to just get home.

As an employee, make sure that you are not working more than your body will physically or mentally allow. Make sure to identify your boundaries and stay within them. As an employer, make sure that you are checking in with your staff, especially in regards to their emotional health. If you see that your staff are fatigued, help them identify the problem and come up with solutions. Overworking employees and ignoring their issues can lead to them leaving work and getting into a serious accident, causing them to be off work longer and compile their stress.

The Employment Standards Act (ESA) sets the minimum standards that most Ontario workplaces must adhere to.2 The ESA states that

  • You must have 11 consecutive hours between shifts
  • Cannot work more than 13 hours in a 24 hour period
  • Must have 24 consecutive hours free from work in a 1 week period or 48 hours free in a two week period

3. Slips and falls

Part of creating a safe work environment includes risk planning. This involves examining areas of work and where routine tasks happen with a fresh set of eyes to find out where potential hazards might occur and then create a plan to prevent them. For example, if an area of the job becomes wet then non-slip shoes should be worn and a handrail to help steady people should be installed.

As an employee, while you do your work try to remember to be vigilant for times you are injured or if you can see the opportunity for a potential injury to occur. Report these to your employer as they have the obligation to make sure that the potential for injury is minimized or eliminated. Remember, you have the right to refuse work if it is unsafe, of course, only after you’ve brought the lack of safety to your employer’s attention and they have neglected to remedy the situation.

A good practice is to provide trainings to teach employees about hazards and how they can identify and prevent those hazards. Having employees sign a form claiming they have been trained and understand the training is a popular practice in many workplaces.

4. Repetitive motion and ergonomic injuries

While at work, repetitive motions and poor ergonomic practices can result in injuries to the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves. Poor ergonomic work spaces do not simply affect older offices. Sitting at your desk for too long can result in some of these injuries too. Although pains and strains don’t seem like a serious injury, they often lead to more debilitating chronic pain. Encourage employees to look out for one another without encouraging negative watching. If you see some of your co-workers practicing poor ergonomics then suggest to your higher ups that they provide some retraining.

By keeping these points in mind, you should be able to create a safer work environment for everyone.

Resources

1“What Time of Day do Most Accidents Occur?” CoverHound Insurance. Jan 26, 2012. Web.

2“Your Rights Under the Employment Standards Act, 2000” Ontario Ministry of Labour. Nov 20, 2015. Web.