Archive | November, 2015

Stress: How It Affects Your Workplace Safety

19 Nov
No matter what industry you’re in, workplace stress impacts more than just employee morale. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, “Exposure to stressful working conditions (called job stressors) can have a direct influence on worker safety and health.” In this article, we’re going to discuss five commonly cited stressors and share how they may be impacting safety at your workplace today.

MISSING INFORMATION

Considering the short attention spans and “gotta-have-it-now” attitudes born from recent advancements in technology, it’s no surprise that missing information now tops the list of workplace stressors.
In the realm of workplace safety, missing information can not only cause stress but accidents and injuries as well. Consider the recent case against a Texas stamping plant, where two workers suffered serious hand injuries, one of which was a finger amputation. Of the serious violations cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, two of them involved missing information: employees did not know how to properly shut down machinery during servicing and maintenance and they weren’t properly trained on how to use personal protective equipment, such as cut-resistant gloves. When an employee isn’t given all the details he or she needs to perform a task safely, filling in the blanks can have disastrous results.

PROBLEMS PRIORITIZING TASKS

Just behind missing information, many people cite problems prioritizing tasks as a workplace stressor. The key to overcoming this stressor is to focus on and complete the most important task first, and then move on to the second most important.
This strategy works to prevent workplace injuries and accidents as well. By focusing on what’s most important first, workers are less likely to rush through menial tasks in order to make time for more significant ones. Furthermore, not switching back and forth between two or more tasks also helps reduce the likelihood of accidents and injuries.

UNREALISTIC GOALS

Setting unrealistic goals can have devastating effects on workplace safety. When workers are overwhelmed with how much they have to get done, they’re more likely to rush, lose focus, and slip up. Consider a truck driver forced to drive too many consecutive hours and running off the road or crashing into another vehicle as a result of fatigue or exhaustion.
Communication is the key to overcoming this stressor. So rather than having management set goals that are unattainable and stress inducing, encourage leadership to work with employees to better understand what they are capable of in a given timeframe.

MOVING DEADLINES

No one likes aiming at a moving target. If deadlines change, goals can quickly become unrealistic, putting unnecessary stress on workers and increasing the likelihood of injury. When deadlines tighten at your company, additional actions should be taken in order to compensate for the lost time—like bringing in part-time or temporary workers to help meet the new timeline or adding in more breaks to make longer shifts manageable.

UNCLEAR LEADERSHIP

More and more we’re hearing about achieving safety excellence by creating a company-wide safety culture—which starts with leadership.
As a safety leader, you cannot say you’re invested in your workers’ safety, but refuse to buy top-performing personal protective equipment to prevent injuries. You can’t tell employees that safety is your primary priority, and then push them to take on more tasks than they can safely perform. Leadership must be clear on where it stands—and that should always be on the side of workplace safety.
As stated earlier, stress of any kind is detrimental to workplace safety, and there’s no single solution that will address all stressors. The key is to keep lines of communication with your workers open so you’re always aware of their levels and causes of stress. The good news is when you find ways to reduce employee stress levels, you’ll find your workplace accidents and injuries decreasing as well.

Do you have workplace safety questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact us at Don Dressler Consulting and CalWorkSafety.com. We’re here to help!
-Don Dressler
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