Minimize Workplace Accidents with a New Strategy

Complying with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations won't guarantee that your workplace will be accident free. However, a look at the most common OSHA rule violations — listed below — shows where many employers are falling short in their safety regimes and where OSHA needs to tighten enforcement.

Here are the top 10 areas of violation for manual labor and industrial job.

  1. Fall protection
  2. Hazard communication
  3. Scaffolding
  4. Respiratory protection
  5. Lockout-tagout (pertains to electrical equipment)
  6. Powered industrial trucks
  7. Ladders
  8. Electrical wiring methods
  9. Machine-guarding
  10. General electrical requirements

It's easy to imagine the kinds of injuries that correspond to the violations listed above. For example, sprains or broken bones, if not worse, can easily result when the safety procedures to prevent falls aren't followed.

Typical Office Injuries

For office workers, the list of most common violations and injuries is much shorter. Here are the top injuries in a typical office, according to a report from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, plus a few comments from the report about each risk category:

  • Falls: "Falling down is not only the most common office accident, it is also responsible for causing the most disabling injuries." Typical causes of falls include tripping over an open desk or file drawer, cords, loose carpeting or objects in hallways. Other common causes are: reaching for something while seated in an unstable chair, using a chair in place of a ladder, slipping on wet floors and inadequate lighting.
  • Improper lifting: Lifting even small loads can lead to injury if not done properly. Employees should receive periodic reminders of the safe way to lift heavy objects (by using their legs instead of their backs, for example.)
  • Flying and stationary objects: These injuries often result when workers are struck by objects, bump into objects or get caught between objects. The basic way employees can avoid such injuries, says the medical school, is to stay alert.
  • Workstation ergonomics: Positioning chairs, desks, keyboards and computer monitors in an ergonomically optimum manner can forestall musculoskeletal problems down the road.

It's one thing to know OSHA rules and common sense safety procedures. It's another to impart the knowledge to employees in a manner that will make it stick and remain at the forefront of their consciousness. That's where "adult learning principles" come into play.

Adult Learning Patterns

Malcolm Knowles, the late pioneering educator, enumerated six adult characteristics that have specific implications for how they can most effectively be taught. Here's the rundown, and their implications for workplace safety training.

Adult learners:

  • Are self-directed: Therefore, they have their own ideas about safety issues and want to be engaged in the process of developing a safety program. Pull them in early in the process of designing a safety education program.
  • Bring years of knowledge and experience to training: That means many will have personal experience with the safety issues you're trying to address. You might be able to incorporate the insights derived from those experiences into your training program.
  • Are goal-oriented: In a work setting, adults aren't into learning for learning's sake; they want to know the purpose of any training initiative. That means it should be made clear to employees that the goal isn't "safety" in an abstract sense, but instead, about not sustaining a concussion, broken bone or some other acute injury. Training should be more "action" oriented than about imparting knowledge.
  • Want relevant and task-oriented training: Avoid using training materials that cover safety issues not pertinent to the employees taking the class. Make classes small enough that what is taught is applicable only to that group. Problem-solving exercises are also helpful, rather than theoretical lessons.
  • Learn best when the timing is right: While most workplace hazards aren't seasonal, some aren't omnipresent. For the most effective training, time it to coincide with an emerging hazard, such as a procedural change or change in employees' physical environment (for example, new work stations). Also, take input from trainees about the best time of day or day of the week to receive training.
  • Need to feel respected: Adults don't want to feel as though they're back in primary school; be sensitive to the possibility that instructors may sound patronizing. Also, the more employees can be involved in the development of the safety training program and its delivery, the more respected they will feel.

Above all else, employees need to perceive that the company's goal in providing safety training isn't merely to satisfy OSHA or other regulatory requirements, but instead comes from company leadership's genuine concern for the well-being of its workforce.

Workplace safety training services and curricula sales are a booming industry. When choosing services and materials, keep employees' learning styles and personal perspectives in mind to assure the best training result, and, ultimately, a zero-injury track record.


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