With some workers returned to in-person work, and others whose jobs require them to be on-site, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) released the top 10 public-sector workplace safety and health hazards reported in 2021, in order to raise awareness of the most common workplace risks.
This list was compiled by NJDOL’s Office of Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health (PEOSH), which is responsible for inspecting, investigating, consulting and helping mitigate workplace hazards, and educating workers and employers on workplace safety to ensure the safety and health of public employees.
“The point of this annual compilation is to make public workers and employers aware of the most common workplace risks, so everyone can take steps toward ensuring a safe workplace,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo. “Our Office of Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health exists not only to seek and find workplace hazards, but to proactively prevent accidents and tragedies from happening.”
Here are NJDOL’s top 10 safety and health hazards in public-sector workplaces for 2021:
- Lack of exit routes or emergency plans – no emergency evacuation plan or means of accounting for evacuated employees in an emergency; exits blocked or not clearly marked.
- Electrical issues – risks of electrical shock, electrocution, or electrical fires; overloaded circuits or power cords; electrical exposures in wet or damp locations; exposed electrical conductors and ungrounded electrical connections or equipment.
- Hazardous energy not controlled – power not disengaged or locked out before servicing starts on heavy machinery; stored energy not released from machine before performing maintenance, such as air being released from an air compressor.
- No machine guards – machinery points of operation or moving parts not covered to prevent injury (no safety shields on saws, for example).
- Walking hazards – open holes in floor or ground; no guardrails on elevated platforms; no railings on stairs; tripping and slipping hazards.
- Improper storage – materials stacked in an unstable manner or stored improperly; moving materials without applicable training (e.g. forklift certification).
- Lack of communications regarding hazardous substances – insufficient communication regarding on-site toxic or hazardous materials and their use; lack of instruction for users on how to handle materials or what protection to wear (e.g. gloves, face shield, respirator); no instructions on what to do if an accidental exposure occurs.
- Insufficient fire prevention efforts – flammable or combustible materials stored improperly; no plan for preventing unintentional ignition.
- Issues in confined spaces – lack of permit or improper mitigation of hazards in confined spaces (a potential buildup of gases, for example) that may create an unsafe work area; confined spaces built in such a way that someone entering could be asphyxiated or trapped. These spaces require a permit to ensure steps were taken to mitigate hazards, air quality is monitored, and an attendant and emergency personnel are on standby in case of emergency before an employee enters the space.
- Hazards to firefighter – Noncompliance with New Jersey Administrative Code N.J.A.C 12:100.7 for firefighters, which covers regulations involving turnout gear, apparatus, fire department organizational structure, duties and special services performed, training, self-contained breathing apparatus, and safety protocols.