Act now to prevent future workplace injuries
A worker slips on a wet floor and sprains their ankle. The injury is immediately felt, medical care is sought, and workplace accommodation is arranged.
While scenarios such as this one are quite common, not all workplace injuries can be linked to a single incident.
Many of the most serious injuries develop slowly over time, if a worker is consistently exposed to unsafe conditions or performs unsafe work. The worker may not even feel symptoms of the damage until years have passed. By the time the symptoms do appear, the damage has already been done.
Repetitive strain injuries, eye damage and loss of hearing are common workplace injuries that can develop slowly over time. The good news? These are largely preventable. Employers should know how to protect their workers from these injuries before they become a major health concern.
Repetitive strain injuries (RSI’s) occur when the same motions are repeated again and again over a period of time. These motions can include rapid movements or holding awkward, unsupported body positions, and often result in headaches or back, muscle or joint pain. Every worker is at risk of developing an RSI, regardless of the nature of their work.
This type of injury is a growing concern. A most recent study on the subject estimates that one out of every 10 Canadian adults have an RSI that affects their everyday activities.
These are just a few ways employers can help prevent repetitive strain injuries:
- Educate and train your employees on RSI’s, including common symptoms to watch for
- Encourage employees to report discomfort or injuries
- Be prepared to provide alternate work for employees if a request is made
- Provide ergonomic work stations and equipment
- Allow rest breaks away from workstations
For more tips on preventing RSI’s visit The Ontario Ministry of Labour.
Damage to the eyes
Eye protection is often a key consideration when it comes to outdoor work or tasks that involve machinery or hazardous chemicals. But it’s important to know that employees in all situations are at risk of damaging their eyes. Factors such as poor lighting or working in front of a computer screen can affect a worker’s vision over time. Here are a few ways employers can help protect their workers:
- Ensure lighting in the workplace is suitable to the task. A worker with vision problems may require their own lighting setup at their workstation.
- Ensure safety goggles or other protective shields (including sunglasses) are available and worn as required. Train employees on how to use these safely.
- Allow for workers who spend the majority of their day at a computer to take frequent breaks away from their screens. Anti-glare screens can also help reduce eye strain.
- Use large print in communications and documents, with high contrast between the text and the background colours. If a worker struggles to read printed text, consider alternate communication methods such as electronic text.
- Provide equipment for accessibility, such as magnification devices if required
- Ensure workers are aware of the location of the nearest eyewash station, clean water supply and where they can get medical help if needed
For more tips on eye protection in the workplace, visit the Government of Ontario.
Noise is a commonly overlooked health and safety concern in the workplace. Exposure to loud noises – whether for short or long periods of time – put workers at risk. In the housing sector, noise levels can be of particular concern during times where maintenance is being performed. Follow these tips to keep workers safe from noise-induced hearing loss:
- Ensure employees are wearing protective ear plugs or earmuffs suitable to the task, and are trained on how to use these correctly
- Train employees on how to care for hearing protection devices, including assembly/disassembly and cleaning
- Be aware of how noise from outside maintenance or construction jobs may affect employees working inside the building. Temporary, alternative workstations may be necessary during these periods.
- Post warning signs in the workplace if there is a risk of exposure to extreme sound levels
- Encourage employees to report issues with noise levels, as well as any ringing or humming they may experience in their ears while on the job or after hours