You’re young. You’re hungry. You’re a fountain of energy and the picture of health. You’re eager to launch your career and set about making history. Probably the last thing you’re worrying about as you embark on your new dream job is how safe and healthy your working environment is.
But if you truly want to build a long and successful career, then health and safety are exactly what you should be worried about. Better still, ensuring the quality of your workplace is a goal that you and your employer should share, not only for your own well-being, but for that of your coworkers, your boss, and your company! Read on to learn more about recent advancements in—and growing challenges to—workplace safety.
Why It Matters
The first answer to the question of why workplace safety matters is an easy one: because you matter, because health matters. That’s probably pretty obvious. But what may not be so obvious is how much workplace safety can impact a company’s bottom line.
According to current estimates, a worker is injured every seven seconds in the United States, and more than 100 million days of productive work are lost each year. Sickness and injury not only hurt employees, they hurt businesses and clients. So loving your job means loving yourself enough to protect your health, both off the job and on!
Calling in the Big Guns
When it comes to workplace safety in the United States, you don’t get much better than OSHA. For half a century now, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration has set the standard—literally—for workplace safety. The Administration is responsible for establishing and enforcing workplace regulations, conducting inspections, providing health and safety recommendations and training, and in general overseeing the health and safety of the American worker, no matter the industry.
OSHA’s regulations are concerned not just with the safety of the physical work environment, but also with the safety of the work itself. That includes monitoring the materials workers handle and how, as well as ensuring that equipment and facilities are subject to regular maintenance to protect workers as much as possible from injury risk, exposure to hazardous materials, or dangerous or harmful physical tasks.
The Dangers of Caregiving
When it comes to dangerous professions, nursing is not usually the first thing that springs to mind. In fact, though, every day, nurses around the world are faced with a range of hazards to their health and safety in the workplace.
For example, nurses are at significant risk of injury, especially to the back and spine, due simply to the physical demands of handling sick, injured, and impaired patients. Worse, nurses are also routinely subjected to sexual harassment and physical assault in the workplace, whether perpetrated by colleagues and superiors or by patients and their family members. Finally, of course, working in a clinical or hospital environment means near-constant exposure to pathogens and communicable illness, from the flu and other viruses to blood-borne infections, such as HIV and hepatitis.
Worries on the Road
As American drivers become increasingly attached to their cell phones and other mobile devices, the dangers of distracted driving continue to escalate. In fact, it’s estimated that more than 1000 people are injured in the US every day due to distracted driving.
That’s bad news for drivers, but it’s even worse for road construction workers. Highway workers are at significant risk of serious, even fatal, injury in the work zone due to drivers speeding, texting, or simply not paying attention or taking care in construction areas. The heavy equipment that is essential to any road maintenance or construction project only compounds the risk, the impact of one vehicle potentially setting off a catastrophic chain reaction.
What Is To Be Done?
No matter what industry you’re in and regardless of how healthy you are or how much care you might take, workplace hazards are inevitable. However, there are important steps that can be taken every day to promote the well-being of the entire workforce.
Cultivating a culture that prioritizes both the physical and the psychological health of employees is the first and most essential step. That can include anything from instituting health and wellness programs on campus or incorporating mental health counseling and preventative medicine into employee benefits plans.
This also means creating a workplace culture that supports work-life balance and encourages employee self-care. Even the type of dress code your company creates can help telegraph the importance of your employees’ health and safety. Encouraging female employees to ditch high heels and pumps while on the job will reinforce the idea that, at your company, it’s your employees’ well being that matters most.
So if you’re looking to promote a culture of safety in your business, try these strategies:
- Update your staff’s safety training at least once every quarter;
- Offer flexible working arrangements, such as telecommuting options and flex time, to help your staff find the work-life balance they need to manage stress and avoid burnout;
- Provide in-house and external mental and physical health resources, from quiet rooms to allow your staff to decompress when needed during the workday to discounted gym and spa members to behavioral and mental health insurance coverage to keep your employees healthy and happy in body, mind, and spirit!.
Whether you are a young employee just starting out or a seasoned business owner cultivating a new generation of workers, cultivating an environment of health and safety in the workplace is of paramount importance. Workers in virtually every industry, from nursing to highway construction, encounter risks to their lives and health on a daily basis. By instituting and maintaining robust, comprehensive health and safety programs, however, employers can better ensure a strong, productive workforce for years, even decades, to come.
Image Source: Pixabay (https://pixabay.com/photos/industrial-security-logistic-1636403/)
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