Top 4 tips to work safer and smarter

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You've probably heard the much bandied about quote: "Work smarter, not harder." Basically, it means that instead of exhausting yourself with effort, you should look for ways to get the job done well without sacrificing quality or quantity of output. This adage might look good on an inspirational poster hanging in a cubicle, but does it really apply to those working in labor-intensive industries? How does a line cook broil a steak smarter? How does a welder replace a semi-truck's muffler without working harder?

Labor-intensive industries might sound like a black-and-white situation when it comes to output quality – either the job is done well or it isn't – but the truth is that there are ways workers in every industry can work smarter and safer.

Here are the top five ways you can perform better on the job without sacrificing quality:

1. Brush up on your safety knowledge
In his book "Only the Paranoid Survive," Andrew Grove, the founder of computer company Intel said that "complacency breeds failure." That statement is as true in the computing world as it is in manufacturing industry. Years of accident-free work could easily lead to complacency on the job, which in turn could lead to more mistakes and injuries. Even if you have a stellar safety record, take some time every few months to update your safety knowledge, check your gear and monitor your behavior on the job. Are your safety shoes looking a little worn out? Is your OSHA manual out of date? These are easy to fix before they become actual problems.

2. Start a minute later
No, this tip isn't about how all these minutes will add up over time into a day of vacation. Starting a minute later than usual will give you a moment to clear your head and double check that you have everything you need. This should be your ritual before beginning any work. Whether you're taking orders at restaurant or cleaning rooms in a hotel, the first thing you should do when your shift starts is pause, take a breath and think about everything you need to do the job well. Forgetting a key piece of equipment means wasted time and it could make you less safe. Check out this article for an example of how being in a rush puts firefighters at greater risk for injury.

"Regularly refresh your safety knowledge."

3. Use your breaks wisely
Inc. magazine reported that people can only stay intensely focused for about 90 minutes at a time. After that point, your focus will start to wane and you might get distracted more easily. Optimally, you'd want to take a 10 or 15 minute break every 90 minutes, but this isn't entirely possible if you're working an hourly job. Most people in that position only get about an hour's worth of breaks for every eight-hour shift – and sadly many of those breaks are often neglected. Nevertheless, when you start to feel distracted or unfocused, you should try to take a break from work, even if only for a minute or two. A fuzzy mind is more prone to safety risks. For example, nearly half of all hospital worker injuries are due to overexertion, according to OSHA.

4. Be mindful at closing time
After working a double, it's very tempting to just toss everything aside, hop in your car and go home. The allure of a comfy bed and mindless TV is enough to make you actually run to your automobile. But if you finish up sloppily, it will just mean more work for you at the start of your next shift. At closing time, take a few minutes to prepare everything for the next day's opening, even if you aren't scheduled to work – it's a courtesy to your fellow employees and a simple task that increases efficiency and safety.

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