Three students – the latest of whom was just 17 years old – have died during the past 10 months while participating in work-integrated learning programs in Ontario. This sheds a new light on the ever-critical topic of safety and workplace protection for all employees.
Young and less experienced workers may be more vulnerable due to their limited experience or workplace knowledge, but no one is exempt from potential hazards or the need to be constantly vigilant when it comes to safety. As an employer, your responsibility is to complete regular safety audits to not only ensure Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) compliance, but more importantly, to prevent injury and illness and preserve the well-being of your workforce.
What to Look For
Every safety inspection should focus on the prevention of unsafe or unhealthy conditions due to stress, wear, impact, vibration, hearing, corrosion, chemical reaction or misuse. Leave no area of your facility untouched – including areas where no work is done regularly, such as parking lots, office and storage areas, and locker and rest rooms.
Look at these three workplace elements:
- The environment: This includes such potential hazards as noise, vibration, lighting, temperature and ventilation.
- The equipment: This covers all materials, tools, machines and apparatus.
- The process: This involves how workers interact with the other two elements as they complete their tasks and operations.
Various types of workplace hazards might include:
- Safety hazards: Examples include inadequate machine guards and unsafe work conditions and practices.
- Biological hazards: These are caused by organisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites.
- Chemical hazards: These are caused by solids, liquids, vapours, gases, dust, fumes or mists.
- Ergonomic hazards: These can be attributed to anatomical, physiological or psychological demands on workers, including repetitive and forceful movements, vibration, temperature extremes, or awkward postures stemming from improper work methods or poorly designed workstations, tools or equipment.
- Physical hazards: These can be traced to noise, vibration, energy, weather, heat, cold, electricity, radiation or pressure.
Elements of a Successful Audit
Before implementing a safety audit, have a plan. Strategically populate your team, determine your inspection route, and know what information you need to gather.
- Health and safety committee members are obvious choices of safety audit team members. Select additional employees who have the best knowledge of regulations, procedures and potential hazards.
- Discuss the planned route. Review where team members will be going and what they will be looking for. Be sure everyone is wearing personal protective equipment where required.
- Use area diagrams and floor plans. Divide your workplace into areas based on processes. Visualize activities for each one and identify the location of machinery, equipment and materials. Show movement of material and workers, as well as the location of air ducts, aisles, stairways, alarms and exits. Use several diagrams if the area is large.
- Use equipment and chemical inventories. Review technical safety data sheets, manufacturers’ safety manuals and material safety data sheets. Check that all chemicals are properly labelled according to Workplace Hazardous Materials Information Systems (WHMIS) requirements.
Employment Professionals Canada offers customized health, safety and wellness consulting services. We’ll help you create or update your safety plans and audit processes so your business can not only maintain compliance, but more importantly, keep your employees safe. Read our related posts or contact us today to learn more.