A Brief Guide to Health and Safety in the Workplace
Identifying workplace safety issues and hazards is the first step towards protecting your employees.
Being safe at work is a responsibility shared by both the employee and the employer. Workplace health and safety starts with the identification of all hazards and potential for harm. This risk assessment is the foundation of every safe working environment. Based on it, the training and information on safe working practices and risk at work need to be provided. Then it’s up to employees to take all reasonable precautions and comply with the safety requirements.
Besides the fact that a safe work environment is a responsibility, it’s also mandatory if you want your workplace to be a productive one. That’s why procedures for safety in the workplace need to be a necessity for all the staff, no matter the type or the size of the business. With safety measures in place you don’t only protect employees, but business property and equipment as well. When you’re able to minimize or completely avoid injuries and damage to facilities and equipment, you automatically cut down expenses, which leaves more profit for a business.
As we’ve said, identifying workplace safety issues and hazards is the first step towards protecting your employees. These hazards can be weather-related, dangers of falling, restricted visibility, noise pollution, mechanical problems, presence of hazardous chemicals, ergonomic hazards. Furthermore, there can be issues with non-ergonomic equipment, which can lead to health problems, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or sore backs. Chemicals should be given special attention since they pose the danger of poisoning and could explode and cause burns.
The operation of any machine in the workplace can lead to potential mechanical safety issues. Most often these are visibility and noise issues, which could compromise employees’ sight and hearing. Negligence or poor housekeeping can result in falls which can cause serious injury or even death. Weather conditions such as rain, snow, or ice are able to create hazards of their own, so some equipment must be operated differently at these occasions to ensure safety.
Beyond the environment
Not all hazards are visible at first sight. Many of us deal with stress in everyday life and the one at the workplace can prove to be too much. This workplace stress can have many causes—working environment or demand exceeds an employee's capacity to meet them, conflicts with managers or coworkers, job insecurity, heavy workload, long hours, etc. The symptoms could be behavioral, mental, or even physical, so it’s important to know how to recognize them. Stress can also lead to concentration problems and depression, so these could also be indicators.
Another big health and safety issue is bullying in the workplace. Besides the fact it can lead to health problems, it can also give rise to further safety issues. On top of that, it can easily have legal consequences. Employers duty to care for all employees means they need to ensure that they’re both —physically and mentally—safe and that their health is not adversely affected by anything, but also anyone in the working environment.
Put it in Writing
Now that you’ve identified all potential hazards, the next step is to put a safety policy in place. This policy can be created entirely by management, but it’s always better if it’s a product of joint effort between management and staff. This is where the role of every employee starts since each of them has the responsibility of carrying out these safety policies. It is mandatory to put these policies into writing, best in the form of safety handbooks. It should contain all of the identified potential safety issues, together with various consequences in case someone doesn’t follow the appropriate safety procedures.
The Training Necessity
Safety policies with spelled out consequences are enough to spread awareness, but you’ll need to reinforce them with a safety training course from companies such as Sydney Rescue Consultants, so employees would know exactly how to practice safety in the workplace and to fully realize its importance. For some types of equipment, such as operating a forklift, this training may even be required by a federal mandate. Even if it isn’t required, it’s still a necessity that will prepare your employees to deal with all the safety issues they come across through various real-life scenarios. Safety instructions may look easy to teach, but that doesn’t mean anyone can do it. If you don’t have employees specially trained to perform these instructions it would be wise to hire outside experts who will be experienced teachers.
Have Safety Equipment in Place
All the safety policies and all the training will come to nothing if appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is not in place. You need specific clothing, gloves, shoes, earplugs, protective eyewear, hard hats. This equipment must be available to any employee who comes in contact with a potential safety hazard in the workplace. This means even a common office worker if part of his job is to deliver a message to a work area that contains potential safety hazards.
As you can see, everything starts with the identification of potential safety hazards, in clear sight and out of it. The next step is to include all of them in a safety policy that you’ll bring to life by providing your employees with a safety training course. In the end, make sure the required safety equipment is available so they can follow the determined guidelines and safety procedures.