Generally speaking, accidents are caused by unsafe acts or unsafe conditions. So, workers can help to prevent accidents by developing safe work habits.
Accidents that result from poor human behavior include accidents caused by a lack of communication, poor work habits, drug or alcohol abuse, and inadequate training. Everyone can help prevent these types of accidents by knowing how to behave on the job and doing it.
Many accidents happen because of a lack of communication. For example, a worker may know the procedures to follow on a particular job, but what happens if the worker uses those procedures on a new job site? The worker needs to communicate with the people at the new job site. He should ask questions to find out if they do things the way he is used to, or if there are other procedures that he should follow.
It is important not to assume that other people know something without talking to them about it. False assumptions are a cause of many accidents. For example, a worker who needs to touch wiring must never assume that electrical power has been cut off. Making sure includes communicating with others and testing the wiring.
Accidents caused by unsafe acts can also be the result of poor work habits. For example, simple carelessness, horseplay, or procrastination can lead to an accident.
“Procrastination” is another way of saying “putting things off until tomorrow.” Putting off until tomorrow work that should be done today can lead to trouble. One way that procrastination could lead to an accident is by putting off the repair, inspection, or cleaning of tools and equipment. If these actions are put off, the capabilities of tools and equipment may be stretched beyond their operating capacities. This can result in injuries.
Poor work habits are another part of human behavior that can be corrected. Work habits and work attitudes are closely related. A worker who does not pay attention to instructions may also ignore words of warning. A worker who lets himself become distracted will not be concentrating on the job. A worker who is not concentrating could make costly mistakes that could hurt himself and his co-workers. For example, horsing around on the job distracts workers from concentrating on the work at hand, and it can lead to an accident. Horseplay on the job is not fun—in fact, it is potentially lethal.
Carelessness can be another cause of accidents, especially with tools and equipment. Tools and machines do not know the difference between wood and steel and flesh and bone, so workers should always be careful when using them.
Accidents also result from alcohol and drug abuse. Every year, alcohol and drug abuse cost industry millions of dollars in accidents, lost time, and lost productivity. Anyone working in an impaired state puts not only himself at risk, but his co-workers, as well. In addition to illegal substances and alcohol, many prescribed and over-the-counter medications taken for legitimate reasons can affect a person’s judgment and ability to work safely.
If a doctor prescribes any medication that a worker feels might affect job performance, the worker should ask about it. Safety depends on everyone being alert and attentive on the job.
Another reason that accidents occur on the job is inadequate training. A worker should never operate any tool or equipment until he has been trained to use it. Workers can greatly reduce the chance of accidents by learning the safety rules for each job that they perform.
In addition to unsafe acts, accidents can be the result of unsafe conditions. One way that workers can improve work conditions to help to prevent accidents on the job is to practice good housekeeping. Good housekeeping means keeping work areas clean and free of debris and spilled liquids, and it means keeping tools and materials organized and in good order. Good housekeeping reduces the chances for falls, slips, fires, explosions, and injuries from falling objects.
The following general guidelines apply to good housekeeping:
- Materials and supplies should be safely stored and properly labeled.
- Tools and equipment should be safely stored and arranged to allow safe access.
- Indoor work sites should be well lighted and well ventilated.
- Aisles and exits should be free of materials and equipment.
- Flammable liquids should be stored in safety cans.
- Oily rags should be placed in self-closing metal containers.
- All waste materials should be disposed of properly.