Workplace Health and Safety

1 year ago 21

In busy workplaces like warehouses, factories, construction sites, and hospitals, employees can be put at risk for injury or illness just by doing their jobs. You might strain your back lifting heavy boxes, injure your lungs with exposure to toxic chemicals used in industrial cleaning, or develop a repetitive motion injury to your arm or wrist by working on the same assembly line for hours at a time.

“Workplace injuries can be either acute or chronic,” says Carisa Harris-Adamson, PhD, an assistant professor of environmental health sciences and deputy director of the Center of Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health. “Acute injuries are from some sort of accident or sudden exposure, which we try to prevent through good safety measures. Chronic injuries result from cumulative exposures, which happen over time when the demands of a task you have to do over and over again ultimately put too much strain on your body.”

How can you protect yourself from injuries caused by your job? Every job has its own unique risks, experts say, but there are basic principles that can help keep you safe in any job. It’s called a “hierarchy of controls,” and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) says it is the “fundamental method of protecting workers.”

“Employers and employees are both responsible for worker health and safety,” says Martin Cohen, ScD, a teaching professor in the Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington School of Public Health. “The employer is responsible for providing a healthy and safe workplace, and the employee needs to take that seriously, understand the hazards they are exposed to, and work with their employer to minimize those hazards.”

Keep Yourself Safe

The hierarchy of controls starts with the most effective and protective methods at the top, working down to the ones that are less effective at the bottom. What should you ask for to keep yourself safe at your job?

Elimination. If there’s a way to eliminate the hazard, that’s the best way to ensure workplace safety. For example, if you work on a building construction site, are there jobs peop...

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