Worker Safety

Rushing to display a last-minute addition to the Silent Auction, the chair of the Jubilee Dinner trips over the cables for the anniversary PowerPoint and shatters her hip. Oh no! The accident casts a shadow over the festive event, sidelines a key parish volunteer and, not incidentally, creates a liability claim. 

Protect Your Most Important Assets

Employees and volunteers are valuable assets to every parish, school and institution. Most are dedicated, reliable and hard-working, and relish their ability to contribute to the mission of the Church. Many have years of experience and such a tremendous work ethic that things always seems to function better when they’re on the scene.

And you certainly don’t want to jeopardize your people. It’s both a challenge and a responsibility to keep all employees and volunteers safe.  Here are tips to prevent some common injuries:

Did you know lifting is the Number One cause of injury?

We all tend to overestimate our strength – and don’t want to inconvenience someone else by asking for help. Lifting injuries are more common at the beginning and the end of the work day. Thoughts are elsewhere as we arrive at work, or perhaps the caffeine hasn’t kicked in. At the end of the day, there are always last-minute tasks and things we don’t want to leave until tomorrow.

Prevent Lifting injury

  • Avoid heavy lifting when possible. When moving heavy things, set objects on a table or elevated surface, not the floor, so you don’t have to reach down to retrieve them.
  • Store heavier objects on shelves at waist level and lighter ones on lower or higher shelves. The best zone for lifting is between your shoulders and waist.
  • Use carts and dollies instead of carrying heavy objects.
  • Use proper lifting procedures, which means keep feet a shoulder-width apart, squat to lift the object, use palms and not fingers for a secure grip, test the load to make sure you can carry it, use your leg, buttocks and abdominal muscles to lift smoothly, avoid twisting at the waist when changing direction, and reverse the guidelines when you get to the destination.
  • Lighten the load and make more than one trip.
  • Ask for help!

Practice makes perfect, but it may hurt. Repetitive trauma injury is a painful condition caused by doing something every day, over and over. This injury can be caused by a mismatch between the physical requirements of a job and the physical capacity of the person doing it. Other common causes include repetitive motion, force, awkward posture, and heavy lifting.

Prevent Repetitive Trauma Injury

  • Use ergonomic solutions, such as adjusting seats, raising a keyboard or lowering a monitor to ease typing discomfort, or use speakerphones or headsets to keep from tucking a phone between shoulder and ear.
  • Make sure workers and volunteers take frequent short breaks.
  • Vary tasks to break up routine.
  • Monitor employees and volunteers to make sure they are not “toughing it out” in order to please you.

Environmental factors are the third largest causes of injury. Wires and cables snake hither and yon. The supposed paperless office is still filled with file boxes (and cartons of brochures for the stewardship appeal.) The parking lot has last winter’s potholes and frost heaves. Someone forgot to repaint the speed bump and now it is a pedestrian hazard. The dolly you used to get rid of the old air conditioner last fall took a chunk out of every step on the way out.

Prevent Environmental Injury

  • Bundle wires and use retractors.
  • Tape down cables that cross open spaces, or use flexible rubber conduits to cover them.
  • Be ruthless in shredding and recycling paper you do not need.
  • Keep floors clear of boxes. Put delivered items away immediately.
  • Establish a pothole repair budget and fix the potholes after the last frost.
  • Mark speed bumps and step edges with bright yellow paint.
  • Repair broken or loose steps and railings as soon as you notice them.

As a general rule, you should make sure employees and volunteers understand any physical requirements of the job before they agree to do it.

  • Detail requirements in a written job description.
  • You may be able to require a physical examination by a medical doctor before assigning certain strenuous activities.
  • Train employees and volunteers properly and completely. Re-train as necessary.
  • Monitor carefully to make sure job duties are within the comfort and capability zone of employees and volunteers.

Much of worker safety practice falls into the common sense category, but busy people rush and supervisors sometimes overlook hazards in favor of getting the job done quickly. Consistent efforts to identify and remediate hazards help maintain a safe environment and a healthy, uninjured team of staff and volunteers. Attention to worker safety also reduces time lost from the job or project and minimizes liability claims.