Safety officials share tips to avoid work-related mishaps

By DLA Safety and Occupational Health

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Are you ever distracted by your cellphone while walking, driving or using equipment? Is your workplace cluttered and messy? Do you barge out of your workstation without looking to see if a co-worker is passing? Or drive material handling equipment out of aisles without signaling to alert others? 

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’ve probably experienced or know an employee who’s experienced a mishap. DLA employees experienced 694 mishaps in 2018. A mishap is an unintended, work-related event resulting in injury, illness or property damage. The three most common types of mishaps for DLA employees were all preventable. They included being caught in or between and struck by objects (216 mishaps); slips, trips and falls (171 mishaps); and overexertion (129 mishaps). 

Employees involved in mishaps in 2018 experienced broken bones, muscle sprains and strains, or cuts and abrasions. The mishaps resulted in employees being away from work 1,321 days and having 5,241 days of restricted duty. Injuries affected employees’ personal lives and their co-workers, and hindered DLA’s ability to accomplish its mission.

To prevent “caught in or between” and “struck by” hazards: 

•    Keep tools and equipment in good condition and ensure safety latches are activated. 
•    Secure and stack material to prevent sliding, falling or collapsing.  
•    Never walk on top of or between improperly stored materials.  
•    Never walk under suspended loads.  
•    Contact equipment operators before walking in front of, behind or around equipment.  
•    Wear proper personal protective equipment, such as those for the eyes and hands.  
•    Close drawers and cabinets when not in use.  
•    Open individual drawers to prevent a tip-over.  
•    Don’t carry boxes or other objects in a way that blocks your view.  

Slip, trip and fall hazards may be easy to overlook, especially when you’re working in familiar surroundings and conditions. These steps will prevent them:

•    Prevent falls on the same level by watching where you’re going and don’t walk too fast.
•    Avoid distractions like talking on a cellphone or texting while walking.  
•    Use handrails when going up and down stairs.  
•    Wear shoes and personal protective equipment that are suitable for the job.  
•    Secure mats, rugs and carpets that don’t lay flat.  
•    Keep walkways and paths clear of clutter and material.  
•    Watch for changes in elevation as you walk.  
•    Clean up spills as soon as you see them.  
•    If you see a slip, trip or fall hazard, don’t assume someone else will deal with it. 
•    Keep your eyes open, watch your surroundings and let the workplace supervisor know when you identify slip, trip and fall hazards.  

Overexertion can occur at work, in the gym or on the golf course. These tips will help limit overexertion: 

•    Limit the time you spend doing the same motion over and over.  
•    If you work at a desk, move items used often close to you. Use a footrest and adjust the height of your computer to obtain neutral body position.  
•    Mark or tag all heavy or unstable loads.  
•    Rotate workers between lifting and non-lifting tasks.  
•    Before lifting, check the load for stability and weight. If needed, make several trips and carry lighter loads. Bend at the knees using only your leg muscles. Step to the side when you need to turn; do not twist your body.  
•    Alternate physically demanding tasks with less demanding ones.  
•    Allow periodic breaks to give workers a change to rest their bodies.  
•    Use mechanical lift devices when available.  
•    Plan the workflow to avoid unnecessary lifts or minimize the distance you carry loads.  
•    It’s okay to say "I can't."  
•    Don't try to move or lift an object you can't handle; find a mechanical aid or get a co-worker to help. 
•    A focused approach and building good habits that limit the effort needed to perform tasks can help you avoid injuries over time. Understand your body’s limits.