Employers have a legal duty of care towards their employees. This means they are responsible for putting in place appropriate measures that will protect their employees from risks inherent to that particular workplace. However, putting safety measures in place isn’t always enough to minimise workplace injuries.
Shared responsibility is key to maintaining an injury-free workplace. Workers have to do their part for safety measures to be effective. So what can you as an employee do to lower these risks?
Know The Risks In Your Workplace
You cannot minimise the risks if you don’t know what the risks are in the first place. The first step to creating a safe workplace is to be aware of the risks inherent in that particular workplace. Fall from heights, getting caught in between heavy machinery and electrical shocks are common risks on construction sites. However, these may not be relevant to an office environment or even a restaurant or supermarket.
Knowing the risks inherent in your workplace will help you stay clear of potentially hazardous situations.
Use The Right Equipment The Right Way
This applies to ALL equipment, not just heavy equipment. Even a screwdriver when used wrongly can be a source of danger. Employers are required to train all workers in the proper use of relevant tools. Make sure you attend training sessions, pay heed to the instructions and implement them in the workplace.
Using the right equipment the right way minimises the risk of workplace injuries considerably.
Always Wear Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment
Depending on the hazards of your workplace, you may need to wear some type of personal protective equipment to keep you safe from injury. Workers handling hazardous chemicals must wear appropriate safety goggles, gloves and closed boots to avoid injury from inhalation or accidental spillage.
In a high noise environment, all workers must wear ear plugs to prevent hearing damage. In a manufacturing plant the personal protective equipment is much more elaborate and may include safety goggles, steel toecap boots, earplugs, full-face mask, and gloves. Putting it all on may seem tedious but wearing it all is critical to staying injury-free. If any item is worn out or doesn’t fit properly, you are responsible for making sure that you get an adequate replacement.
Watch Your Posture
Correct posture is more important than many of us realise and this applies across all workplaces. Using the correct posture at all times, whether you’re working at your desk or bending to pick things up, will protect you from a back injury at work.
Take Regular Breaks
When you’re tired or burned out, you are more prone to making a mistake that could result in you and potentially other people getting injured. Nobody can or should work indefinitely. No matter what you’re working on, know your limits and recognise when it’s time for you to take a break. Regular breaks will help you stay alert and focused on the job and less likely to get injured or cause others to get injured.
Make Sure All Emergency Exits Are Easily Accessible
It is every worker’s responsibility to make sure that emergency exits are easily accessible at all times. In an emergency time is of the essence. There may not be enough time to remove an obstacle blocking the exit. See any large item placed near the exit? Bring it to the notice of the management and get it removed immediately so you and others have quick and easy access to the exit.
Get Help When You Need It
There’s nothing wrong with getting a little help when you need it. If the item you are required to transport from one place to another is too heavy to lift or push, get help. This may involve asking another person to help you or using a mechanical aid to transport the item.
If you’ve been doing overtime and desperately need to take a break for a few minutes, ask somebody else to fill in for you if only for a few minutes. A short break can make the world of a difference when it comes to staying safe.
Report Hazardous Conditions To Your Supervisor
Notice something at work that is a potential safety hazard? Maybe you noticed a funny smell from a container labelled ‘hazardous chemicals’ or the heavy equipment you are working on appears to have developed a fault. Regardless of how small or big the hazard may seem, it’s your responsibility to bring it to the attention of your supervisor at work. They should then take over to resolve the issue and ensure that the workplace is safe for all workers.
Minimise Workplace Stress
Being stressed at work can have serious consequences. You are likely to be more distracted, increasing the risk of causing an accident in the workplace. Is your stress the result of long work hours or a heavy workload? Is it due to bullying or due to a conflict with another employee or a manager? Regardless of the reason, if workplace stress is affecting your efficiency or focus on the job, it’s time to talk to your supervisor and find a way to eliminate or reduce the stressors.
Stay Sober On The Job
A late night out drinking may not seem like such a big deal. However, alcohol and drugs can impair your ability to stay focused and alert, and to make sound judgments. It also affects your motor control and coordination. These combined lapses can be disastrous in the workplace, increasing the risk of workplace injuries significantly.
You know your employer is legally responsible for taking steps to minimise the risk of injuries in the workplace. You also know that you can file a compensation claim against your employer if they fail in their duty. However, staying safe at work is just as much your responsibility as it is your employer’s. Paying heed to the safety tips mentioned above will help minimise the risk of injuries and help keep you safe in the workplace.