Workplace safety is a very important aspect and one area of ensuring a safe and secured work environment is to strategically implement “Safety barriers“.
Safety barriers in the workplace play an important role in preventing accidents, protecting employees and visitors, complying with safety regulations, and enhancing overall workplace safety. Safety Barriers in the Workplace is considered in two (2) aspect:
What is a Safety Barrier
A safety barrier could be considered in two angles:
- Safety barriers in the workplace are physical, virtual or visual materials that are used to protect employee and visitors in the workplaces, example, bollards, guard rails, expandable barriers, access control systems, safety cones, etc.
- It can also be said to be a systemic barriers which involves challenges that could hamper good health and safety standard in the workplace, these barriers need to be identified and managed to foster safety in the organization.
In this article, we will consider the necessity of safety barriers, the various forms and types available, and the process of choosing, implementing, and maintaining them.
Importance of Safety Barriers in the Workplace
The main and general importance is that of accident prevention, but we will delve into other significant areas of the importance of safety barriers in the workplace:
Preventing Accidents and Injuries:
As mentioned above, safety barriers are important to prevent accidents and injuries in the workplace. A lot of accident happens in the workplace, example, falls, collisions, spillage, fire breakout, explosion, which can result in severe injuries and negatively impact both the employees and visitors. But with safety barriers in place, accidents can be reduced to the barest minimum.
Protecting Employees and Visitors:
Safety barriers as the name implies provide a physical barrier shielding the employees and visitors. I know you will ask what it can shield them from; some of the things they can be shielded from are: Dangerous area like where moving equipment are working, dangerous machine parts, high flammable areas, hazardous materials.
Creating these physical barriers helps keep the employee and visitors safe.
Compliance with Safety Regulations:
Every organization that needs to remain in business is always striving to comply with relevant regulations; and safety regulation is not an exception. Non-compliance would result to fines, poor social image, close of business, etc.
Having safety barriers to protect employees and visitors from identified hazards and risk is a regulatory requirement that must be met. Acting according to the recommendation from the regulation shows commitment to creating a safe working environment for employees.
Prevents damage to property and equipment
Safety barriers can prevent serious incidents and injuries which could be caused by powered industrial trucks like forklift, Man lift truck, dumpers, etc. Without safety barriers, equipment and vehicles may be exposed to accidental damage, so it prevents general damage, .
Safety barrier provides physical awareness to workers and pedestrians of their surroundings. Without this awareness, accidents are likely to occur, for example, where workers may fail to hear the reversing sound of a forklift or even the sound of the fire alarm, but with the presence of safety barriers they are always made to remember that there is danger around them. The fact that safety barriers are in an area is an indication that moving vehicle will be present and worker must be alert and take the necessary precaution when moving within those surroundings.
Different Types of Safety Barriers:
There are different types of barriers, here are some of them;
1. Physical Barriers:
These are materials or equipment that can physically block access to some areas within the workplace. Examples are:
a. Guardrails and Handrails
b. Safety Fences and Gates
c. Safety Bollards
2. Visual Barriers:
These are warning signs or symbols placed at strategic locations to warn employees and staff about a particular danger imminent in the environment. Examples are;
a. Warning Signs and Labels
b. Floor Markings and Tapes
c. Safety Cones and Barricades
3. Virtual Barriers:
This makes use of technological advancement to protect workers and visitors from danger. For instance a Virtual Person Barrier encapsulates and follows the user to protect them from collisions with the robot, while Virtual Obstacle Barriers which users can spawn to protect objects or regions that the robot should not enter.
Other examples of virtual barriers are:
a. Access Control Systems
b. Security Cameras and Alarms
c. Safety Software and Apps
Choosing the Right Safety Barriers:
To choose the right barriers you must do the following:
Identifying Workplace Hazards:
When you do not know the hazards prevalent in your workplace you will not know the best form of barrier that you need. So the first thing you have to do is to carry out hazard identification in your workplace.
You can only achieve this by conducting thorough risk assessments to identify potential hazards.
Assessing the Level of Protection Needed:
After identifying the hazard, you need to prioritize them to know the level of risk your employees could be exposed to, your immediate area of strength and weakness. This is where you will know the exact thing that you need.
So you need to determining the appropriate type and strength of barriers based on identified risks.
Considering Durability and Maintenance:
Every organization need to spend money on thing that will stand the test of time, so choosing a barrier must also take this into consideration. Choose barriers that can withstand the environmental conditions of the workplace and require minimal maintenance.
Implementing Safety Barriers in the Workplace:
To implement safety barriers in the workplace, you have to take this into consideration;
Proper Installation and Placement:
Barriers must be installed by a trained and certified professional. Wrong installation may make the barrier useless, not meeting the purpose it was installed for, and a strategic placement of the barrier must also be done. You cannot just place them anywhere, you have to follow the report of your risk assessment to know the best place to install them.
Employee Training and Awareness:
Educating employees on the purpose of safety barriers and how to navigate around them safely. If they do not know why they are there and their importance, they may not know how to put them to use.
So training and awareness is very crucial.
Regular Inspections and Maintenance:
Safety barrier should not be a one time off affair, where after installation everyone goes to sleep. There must be a routine for inspection and maintenance plan in place to ensure they remain effective over time.
At the beginning of this article we also mention systemic barrier, which is a digression from the normal physical barriers we all know. We mentioned that they are challenges that could hamper good health and safety standard in the workplace.
Some of these barriers are:
- Complexity of Job process: Certain jobs or processes can be inherently complex, involving multiple steps, hazardous materials, equipment, or hazards. This complexity can make identifying hazards challenging.
- Conflicting interest: Conflicting interest occurs when there are competing priorities within an organization. These conflicts can arise between productivity goals, financial constraints, and safety requirements. The pressure to meet deadlines or production targets can overshadow the importance of health and safety, leading to compromised standards.
- Human Factor: Human factors refer to the interactions between individuals, tasks, and their surrounding environment that can impact health and safety. These factors include fatigue, stress, distraction, and inadequate training, all of which can contribute to human error and accidents.
- Management Challenges: Some management challenges can also affect health and safety. Examples includes lack of management commitment, poor supervision, lack of training, etc.
Safety Barriers in the Workplace is something every employer should take seriously, be it in the area of physical barriers which offer physical protection to employees and visitors or systemic barrier where we talk about challenges to good health and safety standards in the workplace.
Where its physical barriers, we have mention some types of physical barriers, why you should have them in place and how to get the best out of them.
For systemic barriers, you need to recognize them and draw out measures to surmount the challenges.
At the long long run all is to achieve a safe work environment.