Controlling Workplace Hazards
Restoration contractors encounter a variety of hazards every single day, and one of the most important things you can do is effectively remove or control those hazards to protect your workers. While removing the hazard is ideal, it is not always possible. In those scenarios, it’s important to control the hazard through proper policies and procedures and person protective equipment.
The best way to protect workers from hazards is to remove hazards from the workplace altogether, or at least keep them away from workers.
Removing a hazard typically includes redesigning your company’s processes. For example:
Keep materials wet when grinding, sanding, using cutting tools, or sweeping to reduce dust levels.
Store supplies near the work, and use hand trucks, to reduce lifting and carrying.
Use mechanical hoists to move patients in nursing homes and homecare settings.
Replace gasoline motors with electric motors to eliminate exhaust fumes.
Substitute safer products for more hazardous ones. For example, use cleaning chemicals that are less toxic.
Move noisy equipment away from workers.
Install guards on machines and near hot surfaces.
Use floor mats in wet or slippery areas.
Use good ventilation. This removes dust, fumes, etc., from the air that workers breathe.
Replace old equipment with newer equipment that has better safety features.
Policies and Procedures
When the hazard cannot be eliminated altogether, another option is to set rules that will limit workers’ exposure to the danger.
Rotate workers between a hazardous task and a non-hazardous task so that the length of exposure is reduced.
Increase the number of breaks to reduce the time of exposure to hazards like heat, lifting, etc.
Change the work schedule. For example, it may be possible to schedule tasks in very hot environments at night when temperatures are cooler.
Keep work areas free of clutter and debris. Require good housekeeping to reduce the chance of accidents and fires, to protect tools and equipment, and to prevent slips, trips, and falls.
Improve personal hygiene facilities and practices.
Provide a way for workers to wash their hands and faces before eating and drinking.
Provide worker training programs. Increase workers’ ability to recognize and evaluate hazards, and to take action to protect themselves.
Assign enough people to do the job safely.
Personal Protective Equipment
A third method of reducing hazards is to use personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE is worn on the body and protects workers from exposure to a hazard. The most common types of PPE for restoration contractors are gloves, eye protection, earplugs, safety shoes, respirators, hard hats and coveralls.
PPE is usually considered less protective than the other methods because:
It doesn’t get rid of the hazard itself. It simply reduces the amount of exposure by placing a barrier between the hazard and the worker.
Workers may not want to wear it because some types of PPE can be uncomfortable or hot. Some may restrict movement and make it hard to communicate.
It has to fit properly to work properly.
It has to be the right type for the particular hazard, such as the right glove for the chemical being used.
Workers must be shown how to use it properly.