High-hazard jobs pose unique risks that demand the awareness and attention of everyone within a company to workplace safety and the hazards that lurk in the tasks performed every day. Employees working in such environments face a higher risk of accidents and injuries, making it crucial to address existing and potential hazards. Considering the current trends and best practices within high hazard job settings, I’ve put together a list of the “Top 10” safety topics I feel you should address in 2024 as part of your commitment to educating and promoting hazard awareness in your companies.
- Fall Hazards
Falls remain a significant hazard in high-risk industries, with trends indicating that falls from elevated platforms and equipment being particularly common. Fall protection has been at the top of the OSHA Most Cited Violations list for the last 12 years!
Deploying proper fall protection systems, proper training, and strict adherence to safety protocols can mitigate these risks. Implementing the best fall protection and work at height practices can save lives, reduce injuries, and minimize productivity losses.
- Chemical Exposure
High-hazard jobs often involve exposure to hazardous chemicals, leading to long-term health risks. Emerging trends indicate that inadequate handling and insufficient training contribute to chemical exposure in many workplaces. Many organizations fall short of providing comprehensive training in chemical handling, proper PPE, and adequate ventilation systems are key best practices to safeguard employees. Reducing chemical exposure ensures the health and well-being of employees and mitigates potential legal liabilities.
- Machine-Related Injuries
High-hazard job settings are often rife with machinery and equipment, leading to an increased risk of machine-related injuries. Trends suggest that operator error is a significant contributor. Employing certified equipment operators, conducting regular equipment inspections, and ensuring proper training and safety measures can mitigate these risks. Enhancing machine safety can prevent accidents, reduce operational downtime, and ensure employee well-being.
- Electrical Hazards
Electrical hazards, including electrical shock and electrocution, continue to be a concern in high-risk industries. Trends indicate that inadequate grounding and improper wiring are common contributors. Adhering to proper grounding, utilizing GFCIs (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters), and conducting regular electrical equipment inspections can mitigate these risks. Addressing electrical hazards can save lives, prevent injuries, and maintain project timelines.
- Confined Spaces
High-hazard jobs often require work in confined spaces, where the risk of asphyxiation, entrapment, or engulfment is high. Trends suggest that inadequate training and lack of safety measures are common factors. Implementing thorough training, ensuring proper ventilation, and utilizing safety equipment for confined space entry are vital best practices. Reducing confined space hazards can save lives, prevent accidents, and minimize legal liabilities.
- Noise-Related Health Risks
High-hazard jobs often expose employees to high noise levels, leading to hearing damage and other health issues. Trends suggest that hearing protection is often inadequate. Properly assessing noise levels, providing effective hearing protection, and implementing hearing conservation programs can mitigate these risks. Protecting employees from noise-related health risks contributes to their long-term well-being and work satisfaction.
- Respiratory Hazards
Respiratory hazards in high-risk industries, such as exposure to dust, fumes, and harmful gases, continue to be a concern. Trends indicate that inadequate personal protective equipment is a common issue. Ensuring proper respiratory protection, implementing effective ventilation, and providing comprehensive training are crucial best practices. Proper management of respiratory hazards protects employees from long-term health issues.
- Fire and Explosion Hazards
High-hazard jobs often involve fire and explosion risks, particularly in industries dealing with flammable materials. Trends suggest that inadequate safety measures are often a contributing factor. Implementing fire prevention and suppression systems, providing comprehensive training, and enforcing strict safety protocols can mitigate these risks. Addressing fire and explosion hazards can save lives, protect assets, and maintain business continuity.
- Manual Handling and Ergonomics
Manual handling and ergonomics-related injuries continue to affect workers in high-hazard industries. Trends indicate that improper lifting techniques and inadequate ergonomic practices are common. Providing training on proper lifting techniques, implementing ergonomic workstations, and conducting regular assessments can mitigate these risks. Preventing manual handling injuries ensures the well-being of employees and reduces productivity losses.
- Psychological Stress and Mental Health
High-hazard jobs often lead to psychological stress and mental health challenges among employees. Emerging trends underscore the importance of addressing these issues. Implementing mental health support programs, creating a supportive work environment, and offering stress management resources can mitigate these risks. Addressing mental health concerns ensures a healthier and more resilient workforce.
To enhance your discussions, toolbox presentations, and training materials of these important topics for workers in your organization here are a few resources for you to draw upon to build your presentation:
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration
- The Electronic Library of Construction Safety and Health
- The Center for Construction Research and Training
- The National Institute of Safety and Health
- The American Ladder Institute
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Safety and Health
- Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services CHEMM Information Database
- FEMA National Preparedness Online Courses
- National Safety Council
Although they are too numerous to mention here, I also suggest that employers and safety professionals seeking information and resources to use in “getting the message out” to their workers on all types of safety topics look to the following programs and entities for guidance:
- State-Plan OSHA Small Business Consultation and Resources
- State Government Departments of Labor Resources and Data
- Global Safety Entities (WorkSafe NZ, The Health and Safety Executive, and Safe Work Australia are some really good sites!)
- Large insurance companies
In high-hazard job settings, safeguarding the lives and well-being of employees is of paramount importance. Current trends underscore the evolving challenges faced by these industries, necessitating the adoption and adaptation of best practices. Case studies exemplify the tangible benefits of proactive safety measures in preventing accidents, injuries, and long-term health issues. By addressing these hazards, high-risk industries can progress toward a safer, more productive, and more sustainable future, protecting both their workers and their bottom lines. Let’s all ring in the New Year with our minds and hearts on preventing serious injuries and fatalities in our workplaces!
James A. Junkin, MS, CSP, SMS, ASP, CSHO is the chief executive officer of Mariner-Gulf Consulting & Services, LLC and the chair of the Veriforce Strategic Advisory Board and the chair of Professional Safety journal’s editorial review board. He is Columbia Southern University’s 2022 Safety Professional of the Year (Runner Up) and a much sought after master trainer, keynote speaker, podcaster, and author of numerous articles concerning occupational safety and health.