Accidents happen, sometimes through the carelessness of facility occupants, but also through negligence by a facility owner or employer (they might be one in the same). When a facility owner, manager, or employer is at fault, this is likely a result of a failure to maintain safe and healthy conditions within the facility. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act), an inability to keep a workplace free from hazards can lead to harsh financial penalties in the form of citations or other legal action.
You don’t want to be on the end of those repercussions.
Thankfully, by building awareness of “what can go wrong,” you will be better prepared to evaluate risks and take the appropriate maintenance action. Some of these risks (i.e. poor lighting) will be more obvious, while others (i.e. sick building syndrome) will be tougher to diagnose, but remain hazardous to occupants all the same. All of them can result in significant liability charges.
This blog walks through — safely and with proper lighting — a few of the potential hazards you should keep top-of-mind before problems occur.
Poor lighting can be incredibly hazardous and is one of the more common cases of facility safety negligence. When areas, especially staircases and walkways, are not lit properly, the chance of someone losing their balance, tripping, or falling increases significantly since slipping hazards or steps will be partially or completely hidden from view. Broken bones and other severe injuries can happen as a result of walking through dimly lit areas, and it will be the facility or office owner that bears the brunt of the cost.
Clearly, lighting should never be neglected under any circumstance. Simply doing a regular lighting check and scheduling fixture replacements will help you keep tabs on your lighting situation. Lighting, given its visibility, is easier to maintain than other items on your maintenance checklist, so don’t let this go by the wayside.
Pipe leaks and damages to other plumbing fixtures contribute to another set of hazards. Though the water might not be visible or create a direct hazard to facility occupants, the water damage can manifest into uneven or otherwise damaged flooring. Like lighting, these structural damages can increase the likelihood of injury for occupants and, as such, should be avoided at all costs.
Preventing this problem begins with a general facility inspection (surface-level view of any potential damages), but ultimately requires that plumbing fixtures be checked for leaks. It’s important to note that the issue with leaks is not just the loss of water itself, but also the potential cost of facility damages and the increased chances of liability from indirect structural compromises.
Electrical hazards can directly result in death or severe injury and should be taken seriously. Some of the main risks include exposure to live wires and metal surfaces that are in contact with electrical equipment. Additionally, overheated equipment and electrical faults can directly contribute to fire hazards. In specific circumstances, electricity can also cause explosions if there is potential for contact with flammable materials.
To avoid electrical liabilities, first, know that any and all electrical equipment repairs should be executed by a licensed professional. Second, electrical equipment should not be exposed to hazardous conditions, such as excess moisture, that could result in significant equipment damages. Third, breakers and switchboards must be maintained regularly to ensure power circuits don’t overload and overheat. Fourth, whenever possible, leads should not be run across floors, over edges, or through doorways.
Regularly scheduled maintenance can help ensure that all electrical systems are functioning properly. An infrared test can also expose where equipment or circuitry is on the verge of overheating or failing.
A silent and less conspicuous hazard than the others, sick building syndrome can be severe for occupants, resulting in headaches, dizziness, nausea, colds, eye irritation, fatigue, and even asthma. When these conditions can be tied to the time spent in a building, the safety of a facility environment can be compromised.
Sick building syndrome can derive from multiple sources. Excess moisture in a facility creates a breeding ground for fungus and bacteria that then enters the air. Contaminants from building exhausts, vents, and motor vehicle exhaust (in some cases) can also create a harmful environment for occupants if HVAC maintenance is not regularly scheduled or otherwise neglected.
Indoor air quality can become a liability if there is sufficient reason to believe that the cause of deteriorating health or sickness is the result of facility conditions. Specific HVAC design and maintenance concerns can come into question, such as whether or not the system uses direct ducting, whether the air intake systems allow for enough fresh air, and whether or not there is sufficient ventilation.
By scheduling planned maintenance services at the proper intervals, you dramatically reduce the risk of hazards for occupants. So long as the equipment is functioning correctly and regular facility inspections are conducted, you will be doing both yourself and occupants a great service to keep them as far from harm as possible.
For more information regarding facility maintenance and risk, you can download a facility risk evaluation below. Gain insights into the most significant risks for the primary systems in your facility (electrical, HVAC, plumbing) and what you can do to mitigate equipment failures or other emergencies.