In the world of occupational health and safety, the ideal is to prevent accidents from ever occurring. To do that, there needs to be an evaluation of the different dimensions of the work with a focus on identifying potential for harm to workers:
- What is in the workplace (equipment, machinery, chemicals etc…);
- What work is being done in the workplace;
- How work is being done in the workplace;
- Who is doing the work.
Hazard: Be on the lookout for “an accident waiting to happen.” This can be caused by anything in the workplace, and the workplace is defined as any place that a person is doing their work in. For example, it could be a staircase without anti-slip surface or tape, poor lighting or a client known to be violent.
Incident: An incident is a negative event or situation that has occurred, whether it resulted in injury or not. Examples include property damage, a faulty process, a spill or workplace violence. A ceiling tile failing on the ground should be reported and investigated because it could have hurt a worker. Why did it fall in the first place and are there other ceiling tiles about to fall? The same could be said about an incident of workplace violence, where investigation could uncover the risk factors and identify preventative equipment and processes that could have been used to prevent injury.
When prevention efforts are not enough and warning signs ignored, injuries will occur. While many people call them accidents, the word “accident” implies that there was no way that the injuries could have been prevented. In reality most, if not all, workplace injuries could have been prevented by effective occupational health and safety programs.
Workplace Injuries: Happen when hazards and warning signs have been ignored.
There are different types of injuries.
- Sudden Onset Injuries: happen suddenly, like slips and falls. The immediate cause of the injury is usually not in question, even if all the contributing factors are not all understood.
- Gradual Onset injuries: Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) or Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD): happen over time, and their causes are sometimes difficult to pinpoint. Some examples include: carpal tunnel syndrome, occupational diseases, Noise Induced Occupational Hearing Loss (NIOHL).
**All injuries/exposures, regardless of the severity, should be reported in writing to the employer immediately**
If you’re not sure if something should be reported, report it anyway! Don’t let your employer tell you that you can’t fill out a WSIB or health and safety form!
If you have any questions or concerns regarding health and safety or worker’s compensation, you can access the CUPE resources available to you by contacting your CUPE Local Executive members and/or National Representative for more information. More information is available on the CUPE National health and safety page.