Safety

Safety Management

Are Good Safety Habits Established in Your Workplace?

3/21/19
Grainger Editorial Staff

Good safety habits are not a “sometime” thing. They’re an all-the-time thing, and an important part of a strong safety culture. (Read more good safety habits and the benefits they bring here.) And while it’s easy enough to identify bad safety habits in the workplace, spotting the good habits can be harder.

That’s why we put together this list of signs that safety is a habit. We’ll start with some general indicators that apply across the board, before delving into industry-specific indicators for construction, manufacturing and more, in the safety habits charts below. (Note that many of the industry-specific indicators will also be useful in other industries, so it's worth reading the signs of good safety habits in full.) After the lists, you'll find in-depth descriptions that explain the indicators and point to more resources.

General Signs of Good Safety Habits

  1. Everyone helps keep the work environment tidy and organized
  2. Everyone is comfortable reporting unsafe working conditions up the chain of command
  3. Everyone who is required to wear PPE is wearing it the right way—and it fits properly
  4. Everyone knows where safety equipment is located
  5. Everyone who handles heavy objects uses proper lifting and carrying techniques
  6. Everyone know that their organization is committed to safety at the highest levels and can see posters in the breakroom or on the job site demonstrating this commitment
  7. Everyone knows where to go and what to do in an emergency
  8. Everyone is aware of hazardous chemicals in work area and knows where to find the Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)

Signs of Good Safety Habits on the Construction Site

  1. Workers take pride in cleaning and maintaining tools and equipment
  2. Workers pause to drink water every 20 to 30 minutes to prevent dehydration
  3. Workers refuse to use fraying or improperly grounded extension cords
  4. Workers use available fall prevention and fall protection when working at heights
  5. Workers pay close attention to what’s behind and around them when operating moving equipment

Signs of Good Safety Habits in a Manufacturing Plant or Metalworking Shop

  1. Workers lock out machines when necessary
  2. Workers sweep up metal shavings and put them in containers that they empty frequently
  3. Workers avoid loose clothing, and they tie up their hair if it’s long
  4. Workers store solvents and other flammables in proper containers
  5. Workers inspect their forklifts before using them, and they use them with care

Signs of Good Safety Habits in a Healthcare Facility

  1. Workers wear protective equipment like gloves, masks and gowns when they may be exposed to blood or other sources of infection
  2. Workers wash or sanitize their hands frequently
  3. Workers have help when lifting or moving patients

General Safety Indicators

  1. Everyone helps keep the work environment tidy and organized

A messy workplace poses many safety hazards. On a construction site, for example, scattered debris and equipment creates a minefield of slip-and-trip hazards—and slips and trips are a leading cause of construction employee deaths, according to OSHA.

  1. Everyone is comfortable reporting unsafe working conditions up the chain of command 

When safety has become a habit, good communication is a telltale sign. All employees should be confident pointing out potential safety concerns to their supervisors, without fearing blowback.  

  1. Everyone who is required to wear PPE is wearing it the right way—and it fits properly

It goes without saying that workers should be wearing the right PPE, whether that’s high vis apparel, safety glasses, safety-toed footwear, hearing protection or hand protection. But take a closer look to see if safety has really become a habit.

Is the PPE being worn the right way? E.g., are tight-fitting respirators sealed against the skin? Are hard hats facing forward (and if not, are they approved to be worn facing backward)?

And is the PPE in good condition? Weathered and scratched hard hats, faded high vis apparel, and worn-out boots are no longer providing optimal protection.

  1. Everyone knows where safety equipment is located

Safety equipment should always be clearly identified and accessible. But beyond that, it’s a sign of good safety habits when people actually know where the safety equipment, such as an emergency eyewash, is located.

Personal eyewash bottles should be clearly marked with the expiration dates of their flushing fluids. And, like eyewash stations, they need to be tested.

  1. Everyone who handles heavy objects uses proper lifting and carrying techniques

Lifting and moving heavy loads is all in a day’s work. It’s also a frequent cause of injury—muscle strains and sprains. When safety is a habit, workers will limit these risks when they can. For example, heavy loads will be raised off the ground so workers don’t have to deadlift them, and workers will use equipment to help them lift and move things when possible.

  1. Everyone knows that their organization is committed to safety at the highest levels and can see posters in the break room or on the job site demonstrating this commitment

Don’t just walk by that poster on the break room wall—take a minute to read it. If the corporate mission statement talks about the importance of safety, that’s a sign that safety is valued from the C-suite down. And if there’s a dedicated safety statement, all the better.

  1. Everyone knows where to go and what to do in an emergency

It’s not enough to have an emergency evacuation plan. Workers need to understand it and remember how to get out of the building—and what to do afterward. Paths to the exits should be clear, exit signs should be functioning and there should be a planned place to regroup in safety.

  1. Everyone is aware of hazardous chemicals in work area and knows where to find the Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)

Most workplaces have hazardous chemicals on site. It’s a sign of strong safety habits when workers know where to find the Safety Data Sheets on these substances and understand how to use the information they provide.


Construction Safety Indicators

  1. Workers take pride in cleaning and maintaining their tools and equipment

Tools with excessive wear or a buildup of dirt and grime can be hazardous. For example, power tools with frayed electrical cords can be electrical safety hazards, and ladders with worn or mud-caked rungs are a fall waiting to happen. When laborers take pride in cleaning their tools, and when their employers give them access to functional, well-maintained tools, that’s a good sign that safety has become a habit on the job site.

  1. Workers pause to drink water every 20 to 30 minutes to prevent dehydration

Construction work is physically demanding, and workers are exposed to sun and heat for much of the day. Hydration helps make sure employees can do their work well in these conditions, without endangering their health. OSHA requires that drinking water be made available on the job site, but it’s a sign of good safety habits to see workers making a point to drink water throughout the day.

  1. Workers refuse to use fraying or improperly grounded extension cords

Power tools are essential to construction work, which means that temporary outdoor wiring is also a necessity—and this can be an electrical safety risk. When safety is a habit, workers will check their extension cords to make sure they’re in good shape, and they’ll always plug into a portable GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter).

  1. Workers use fall prevention / fall protection when working at heights

Year in and year out, fall protection is OSHA’s most cited violation. When safety is a habit, you’ll see workers consistently using fall prevention (guardrails) or personal fall arrest systems when working at heights.

  1. Workers pay close attention to what’s behind and around them when operating moving equipment

By habitually paying close attention to their surroundings when they operate moving equipment, workers are helping prevent “struck by” injuries, another one of OSHA’s “focus four” areas. Equipment should also have backup alarms, and nearby workers should wear high-vis gear to help operators see them.


Manufacturing/Metalworking Safety Indicators

  1. Workers lock out machines when necessary 

When a machine gets jammed or stops working in a manufacturing facility, every lost second of production counts. But when safety is a habit, workers know that they before they dive in to find the problem, they may need to follow the right steps to lock out the machine and make sure its hazardous energies are under control.

  1. Workers sweep up metal shavings and put them in containers that they empty frequently

Some metal chips and shavings can easily ignite. When they start to accumulate, it’s a serious fire hazard, so it’s important that they routinely be cleaned up and stored properly.

  1. Workers avoid loose clothing, and they tie up their hair if it’s long

Belts, pullies and rotating shafts are just a few of the moving parts you’ll find in many manufacturing facilities—parts that can easily snag clothing or hair that gets too close. When safety is a habit, workers do what they can to limit their exposure to this risk up front by avoiding loose clothing and hair. Machine guarding is an engineering control that can do even more to mitigate this risk.

  1. Workers store solvents and other flammables in proper containers

Open containers of flammable substances readily allow vapors to escape and potentially ignite. It’s a sign of good safety habits when proper storage containers (closed and/or covered) and cabinets are used.

  1. Workers inspect their forklifts before using them, and they use them with care

When safety is a habit, forklift operators go above and beyond OSHA requirements, inspecting their forklifts not just every shift, but whenever they come back from a break. Promote forklift safety by using safety mirrors, gates and traffic lights.

And take a look at the forklifts themselves. Scrapes and scratches can indicate the “near misses” that often result from careless operation or improper training. Pallet rack base plates can provide another clue: damage or repairs to the base plates indicate that operators may be cutting corners too quickly, another sign of inadequate training.


Healthcare Safety Indicators

  1. Workers wear protective equipment like gloves, masks and gowns when they may be exposed to blood or other sources of infection

Healthcare workers frequently come into contact with bodily fluids that may contain blood or other infection vectors, and it’s critical that they protect themselves by using “universal precautions” (like disposable gloves).

  1. Workers wash or sanitize their hands frequently

Good hygiene is a must in any healthcare facility, and handwashing is perhaps the most basic component of this.

  1. Workers have help when lifting or moving patients

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, workers in healthcare have rates of overexertion-related musculoskeletal injury that are among the highest of any industry in the US—and manual patient handling is the biggest risk factor these workers face. Assistive equipment and safety procedures can help reduce this risk.

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