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Peter Hawksworth
By Peter Hawksworth on August 13, 2020

Business Environment Health Hazards That Can Be Avoided Post-COVID

Keeping Employees and Customers Healthy is More Important Than Ever. As we return to business, offices, restaurants, retailers, schools, and municipal buildings are opening. COVID-19 is still very much a global reality and, although people now accept mask-wearing and frequent hand-washing as a way of life, businesses can do much more to ensure that their teams, customers, and people who pass through their spaces all stay safe.

Health hazards and concerns about physical and mental well-being existed long before the pandemic. This period in history has made us all more aware of the air we breathe, the cleanliness of our workspaces, employers’ sick leave and insurance policies, the lighting in offices and stores, and even the level of stress in our daily environments. 

We expect the places we live, learn, shop, and eat to be germ-free and count on the companies that control our environments to be responsible and forward-thinking. 

What are the Most Common Health Hazards in the Business Environment?

Security Hazards

From the moment we pull into a parking lot in the morning until we leave work at the end of the day, we want to know that we can move safely. One in ten crimes occurs in parking structures. Proper lighting and surveillance in garages, hallways, and interior spaces are a huge part of ensuring confidence. 

In addition, building managers and employers must look objectively at their spaces to ensure that walkways are clear, flooring is kept in excellent condition (to avoid slips and falls), and directional signage helps people navigate.

Poor housekeeping can also fall into this category. If garbage is left to pile up, furniture is cramped, or a store is filled with too much merchandise, the likelihood of injury increases.

Providing a safe and well-lit environment can help you avoid physical injuries, reduce crime, and alleviate the stress that comes from feeling confused or at risk. To avoid potential risks, you must:

  • Perform a thorough lighting audit
  • Speak to local law enforcement agencies about what you can do to reduce crime
  • Make sure all directional signage is clear and well-lit.
  • Walk through your place of business regularly (and encourage managers to do the same) to spot and rectify any unsafe conditions. 

Don’t wait for accidents or thefts to occur. Be proactive. 

Biological Hazards

Mold, dust, sewage, insects, and even pets in the workplace can result in sickness and allergy symptoms. In short, any natural element that can result in discomfort or illness falls into this category

COVID-19 and other airborne viruses can be considered a biological hazard. Most businesses have tightened-up their systems and training to avoid the spread of disease. But it’s not a one-and-done exercise. Smart businesses will:

  • Continue to perform thorough and frequent cleaning.
  • Monitor ventilation and air quality
  • Provide enough space so employees and guests can move freely and safely.
  • Ensure that hand sanitizer is readily available and that restrooms are well-stocked with soap and towels.
  • Educate all employees on health practices and be sensitive to allergies that result in breathing difficulty. Even certain types of plants may be toxic to humans.
  • Perform regular air quality testing, bringing in experts as needed.
  • Post clear and specific signage in their places of business to encourage healthier practices.

Remember that scrimping on practices that impact the air your employees and customers breathe can result in high long-term costs and even death.

Chemical Hazards

These are solvents, gases, and liquids that can make people sick. Carbon monoxide can be found in both residences and workplaces and, if not properly monitored, can have serious consequences. 

Although one may think of chemical hazards only existing in industrial settings, poor ventilation, or the wrong choice of cleaning fluids can put workers at risk in any environment. Pesticides used in common areas, materials used in laboratories in school and hospital settings, and even gases blown into otherwise “safe” spaces through open windows and garage doors can result in breathing difficulty and illness.

To avoid these risks, you must:

  • Know what chemicals are in use in and around your business.
  • Ensure proper ventilation.
  • Dispose of potentially hazardous materials quickly and safely.
  • Respond immediately and effectively to any complaints of workers feeling dizzy or nauseated or having trouble breathing.

You don’t need to be a chemist or factory manager to pay close attention to this category.

Ergonomic Hazards

The warehouse or retail worker lifting heavy boxes has something in common with the computer programmer who hunches over a computer all day -- ergonomic risk. It’s any situation that puts stress and strain on a human’s body.

Lighting is an often-overlooked aspect of health in the workplace. Poorly-lit areas result in eye strain and a lack of productivity. On the other hand, well-lit retail, restaurant, and learning spaces lead to success. Make sure the lights you install are right for your business objectives and employee needs.

Noise level can also have an impact on productivity and well-being. That buzzing light fixture, loud music, and construction sounds can distract workers and affect their long-term hearing.

The safety-oriented business will:

  • Automate functions, so machines rather than people are performing high-risk tasks.
  • Invest in the right types of equipment -- from standing desks to modern forklifts -- to avoid injury.
  • Educate employees about how to sit, lift, and perform other tasks to eliminate bodily damage. 
  • Study noise levels and ensure workers have proper ear protection in loud environments.
  • Have a professional audit their lighting system and upgrade it for safety and sustainability.

Mental Health Hazards

Often overlooked, stress levels from work overload, bullying supervisors, and limited vacation, sick leave, and time off policies can lead to serious health issues. Todays’ employers and managers must:

  • Take mental health as seriously as physical health.
  • Make resources available to employees who are struggling.
  • Create work environments where people enjoy psychological safety.

Healthy Environments Make Good Business Sense

By avoiding these health hazards and creating a safe and supportive environment, you’ll be able to hire and retain the best talent (and customers). You’ll ultimately see improvements in satisfaction and productivity.

According to the CDC, health problems cost businesses $1,685 per employee per year or $225.8 billion annually.

Paying close attention to each of the areas above will save you significantly in the long-run -- and make your company hazard-free and a great place to work.

We’d like to help you save money AND promote employee wellness. Ask for a free lighting audit today.

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Published by Peter Hawksworth August 13, 2020
Peter Hawksworth