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Keeping Our Environment Safe

LivesaverWhile safety is everyone’s responsibility, at LTC the Safety Officer is the one charged with the overall responsibility for the health and safety management for the organization.

A key step in any safety protocol is to conduct a thorough hazard assessment of all work environments and equipment. Below are 7 broad categories of potential hazards to look out for:

Safety Hazards:

Safety Hazards are unsafe working conditions that can cause injury, illness and death. Safety hazards are the most common workplace hazards.

They include:

  • Anything that can cause spills or tripping such as cords running across the floor or ice.
  • Anything that can cause falls such as working from heights, including ladders, scaffolds, roofs, or any raised work area.
  • Unguarded machinery and moving machinery parts that a worker can accidentally touch.
  • Electrical hazards like frayed cords, missing ground pins, improper wiring.
  • Confined spaces.

Biological Hazards:

Biological Hazards include exposure to harm or disease associated with working with animals, people, or infectious plant materials. Workplaces with these kinds of hazards include, but are not limited to, work in schools, day care facilities, colleges and universities, hospitals, laboratories, emergency response, nursing homes, or various outdoor occupations.

Types of things you may be exposed to include:

  • Blood and other body fluids
  • Fungi/mold
  • Bacteria and viruses
    Plants
  • Insect bites
  • Animal and bird droppings

Physical Hazards:

Physical hazards can be any factors within the environment that can harm the body without necessarily touching it.

They include:

  • Radiation: including ionizing, non-ionizing (EMF’s, microwaves, radio-waves, etc.)
  • High exposure to sunlight / ultraviolet rays
  • Temperature extremes – hot and cold
  • Constant loud noise

Ergonomic Hazards:

Occur when the type of work, body positions and working conditions put a strain on your body. They are the hardest to spot since you don’t always immediately notice the strain on your body or the harm that these hazards pose. Short-term exposure may result in “sore muscles” the next day or in the days following the exposure, but long-term exposure can result in serious long-term illness.

Ergonomic Hazards include:

  • Improperly adjusted workstations and chairs
  • Frequent lifting
  • Poor posture
  • Awkward movements, especially if they are repetitive
  • Having to use too much force, especially if you have to do it frequently
  • Vibration

Chemical Hazards:

Are present when a worker is exposed to any chemical preparation in the workplace in any form (solid, liquid or gas). Some are safer than others, but to some workers who are more sensitive to chemicals, even common solutions can cause illness, skin irritation, or breathing problems.

Beware of:

  • Liquids like cleaning products, paints, acids,solvents – ESPECIALLY if chemicals are in an unlabeled container!
  • Vapors and fumes that come from welding or exposure to solvents
  • Gases like acetylene, propane, carbon monoxide and helium
  • Flammable materials like gasoline, solvents, and explosive chemicals
  • Pesticides

Work Organization Hazards:

Hazards or stressors that cause stress (short-term effects) and strain (long-term effects). These are hazards associated with workplace issues such as workload, lack of control and/or respect, etc.

Examples include:

  • Workload demands
  • Workplace violence
  • Intensity and/or pace
  • Respect (or lack thereof)
  • Flexibility
  • Control or say about things
  • Social support or relations
  • Sexual harassment

This is not an exhaustive list, but it gives you a good idea of all of the areas to consider.  LTC conducts a quarterly review of each property, utilizing the document “Is this House Safe?” If you are not familiar with this document, ask your supervisor about it.