According to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers are responsible for safety in the workplace. So what exactly is an employer expected to do to comply with this particular Act?
Workplace safety is comprised of several equally important aspects, all of which work together to create a safe working environment for everyone. Below are a few general safety measures that every employer should have in place in order to minimise the risk of injuries in the workplace.
Identify Potential Hazards
An employer cannot put the proper safety measures in place unless they recognise the potential hazards. Every workplace is unique and so are the risks and the safety measures required. For example, the safety measures necessary on a building or construction site will be mostly completely different from those required in an office.
Getting a professional third-party to perform a risk assessment of the workplace is highly recommended as they are more likely to be objective in their evaluation.
Develop Relevant Safety Training Programs
Developing safety training programs, and making it mandatory for all employees to attend helps to establish a safety standard among workers and management staff. The key is to ensure that the program is specific to the workplace.
A safety training program for a manufacturing factory may cover basics such as the proper use of power tools and heavy equipment, safe machine operation, body mechanics and how to lift and move goods safely, and the use of proper protective gear. However, a safety training program for an administrative office could focus primarily on computer ergonomics.
Create A Safety Manual And Keep It Handy
A safety manual helps to reinforce all safety guidelines covered in the training program. The manual should include clearly outlined training and safety instructions, procedures for handling different types of equipment, what steps to take to prevent injuries, the correct protocol for certain procedures, and the proper personal protective equipment to be worn for different tasks.
Keeping this safety manual handy makes it easier for employees to refer to if they feel the need to clarify any doubts.
Mark Hazard Areas Clearly
You cannot assume that everybody knows about the potential hazards of your work space. Workers from other departments or visitors to a particular workroom may not be aware of the potential hazards of that particular space. Proper signage that warns everybody about the potential hazards increases awareness and lowers the risks of injuries.
Provide Industry Standard Personal Protective Equipment
Personal protective equipment can be essential in all manner of workplaces. The only difference lies in the type of PPE that is required.
In some industries, workers may only need one item, such as ear plugs to protect against loud noises, or safety goggles to protect their eyes from flying debris. Workers who lift heavy loads may only need a lifting belt and gloves. However, in other workplaces, such as construction/ building sites, the personal protective equipment can be extensive.
Employers are expected to identify the requirements of their particular industry and accordingly provide their workers with the appropriate personal protective equipment. Guidance on the Personal Protective Equipment At Work Regulations 1992 can be found here.
It’s all very well to conduct training programs, create safety manuals, and provide workers with the best personal protective equipment. Unfortunately, the fact is despite all of this, employees sometimes ignore all safety guidelines and advice. Workers can get careless and take shortcuts especially if they think they can get away with it. The only way to prevent this from happening is to reinforce the safety guidelines. Here are some ways this can be done:
- Discuss safety issues all the time – at performance assessments, staff meetings, and any other chance you get.
- Put up warning posters.
- Recognise and reward individual workers or teams who demonstrate exemplary behaviour with regards to safety in the workplace.
- Impose consequences for failure to follow established safety guidelines.
Review Safety Measures Regularly
The safety measures in a workplace may change with time, depending on various factors. When new equipment is introduced, safety measures relevant to that equipment will have to be added to the guidelines. In case of increased workload, additional staff must be required.
If there is an upward trend in accidents at work, however minor, new strategies must be developed to prevent those accidents.
Conduct Regular Inspections And Maintenance Of All Equipment
It is important that all equipment required to do a job are inspected regularly and all necessary maintenance carried out as per schedule. Wear and tear is inevitable with any equipment and because workplaces typically use high-powered tools and equipment, a little dirt stuck in a working mechanism or a frayed cable is all it can take to cause a serious accident.
Have Stringent Housekeeping Standards
Housekeeping in the workplace includes things such as ensuring that all pathways are free of obstacles, debris, and spills that could cause workers to slip, trip or fall. These are some of the most common causes of accident at work claims. In a busy workplace, it is worth having dedicated housekeeping staff whose only responsibility is to prevent potential slip, trip, and fall accidents.
Hone The Hiring Process
Safety in the workplace starts during the hiring phase. When hiring or employing staff, there are a couple of things that employers can do to reduce workplace-related injuries:
- Hire enough staff: When there is a shortage of staff, workers may try to work harder than they would usually expect to meet production demands. Overworked, exhausted employees tend to cut corners, disregarding safety protocols, increasing the risk of accidents. Hiring part-time staff can be the solution to preventing injuries due to exhaustion.
- Hire the right staff: Hiring someone who does not have the qualifications or physical capabilities to do the job can do more harm than good. Not only can they add to the workload of other staff, they are also more likely to jeopardise the safety of the other employees. Every single employee that is hired must be capable of performing the job entrusted to them, and must go through the established safety training program before they begin work.
Prepare For Eventualities
The unfortunate truth is, no matter how much you prepare and what safety measures you have in place, accidents can still happen and workers can still get injured. Employers must have a protocol in place to make sure that any injured employee gets the care they need as quickly as possible.
That’s it for now, work safe people.