Upon my return to Nigeria, my second job was demanding. I spent hours on the road daily shuttling three states, attending meetings, supervising staff and much more, and was left in excruciating pain after every day.
What was the cause? How could I prevent this?
It was my first day of Physiotherapy, different questions running through my mind. “How did I get to this point?” “What could I have done differently?” And they were a million things I could have done differently. The issue was I never put my health and safety first, at least not until my bill for my physiotherapy session came in or when my first session was over and my whole body was sore.
What we need to understand is that every job has hazards and it is the responsibility of the organization you work for to cater for your health and safety while on duty. But welcome to Nigeria where that is a far cry. Some organizations/companies make arrangements for sporting activities, gyms, health insurance and so on, but some believe it is your responsibility to look after yourself. I cannot say they are entirely wrong. If your boss won’t look after your safety while at work, then it is imperative you do that for yourself. So what is a workplace hazard?
This can be defined as an unknown and unpredictable phenomenon that causes an event to result in one way rather than another, or a possibility of incurring loss or misfortune at the workplace. Categories of hazards are:
- Physical hazards: This is the most common workplace hazard and usually includes falls/slips, vibrations, noise. Everyone at some point or another has been a victim of this category because it cuts across all job specifications.
- Chemical hazards: This is when a hazardous substance can cause harm to you (this is usually common in chemical producing companies or companies that use chemicals to produce materials.
- Biological hazards: Bacteria and viruses that can cause health effects, such as hepatitis, HIV/AIDS and Ebola (this is usually common in hospitals and clinics with medical practitioners).
- Ergonomic hazards: Physical factors that harm the musculoskeletal system, such as repetitive movement, manual handling, poor body positioning, work shifts, and situations causing stress;
- Risks of accident that includes the arrangement of an inappropriate work environment, insufficient lighting, potential accidents with electricity and fire
The fourth one mentioned was the major cause of my visit to the Doctor which I got to find out later. I was engaging in poor body postures, lifting things that were too heavy (especially for a female) and sitting for too long (writing reports).
There are some health risks associated with workplace hazard, such as:
- Stress-related disorders.
- Breathing problems.
- Skin irritation.
- Damage to muscles, bones and joints.
- Spinal diseases such as herniated discs and lumbar muscle contractions.
- Sleep disorders.
- Hearing damage.
- Reduced wellbeing.
- Behavioral changes.
Ways to prevent workplace hazards
- Hazard Identification: Identify the hazard by carrying out a workplace risk assessment.
- Risk Assessment: Evaluate the risks.
- Risk Control: Make the changes.
Tips on how to be safe at work
- Understand the risks.
- Reduce workplace stress.
- Take regular breaks.
- Protect your back.
- Avoid stooping or twisting.
- Squat whenever there is a need to lift heavy things.
- Clean and organize your workspace.
- Ensure a clear and easy route to emergency exits and equipment.
- Be alert and awake on the job.
- Use mechanical aids whenever possible.
- Wear protective equipment to suit the task (PPE Personal Protective Equipment).
How employers can improve Health & Safety at the workplace
- Train your employees on safety measures.
- Talk regularly with your employees.
- Investigate incidents.
- Proper documentation on incidences.
- Make safety a key part of your business.
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