“Work injuries and illnesses can affect every aspect of life for workers and their families.” – Maine Department of Labor
When you leave for work, your loved ones await your safe return. They expect your workplace to be safe and secure so that they don’t have to get news about any unfortunate incident.
In 2019, a Workplace Safety Report was prepared by Rave Mobile Safety. Surprisingly, it found that 30% of employees were oblivious to their employers’ emergency preparedness plans. Although a significant part of the responsibility is of the employer to ensure a secure workplace, the employees also play a crucial role by working alongside the management.
They must be aware of their workplace safety rights and the measures they should take to make sure they are safe.
The fundamental rights, safeguarding a worker’s safety, are mentioned in section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996. They include the provision of free safety equipment by the employer, informing the employer about any health concerns that they have, and refusal to work if it poses a risk to their health.
Workplace Safety Statistics
If any work-related incident has not happened to you, don’t think it can’t happen.
Have a look at the following stats which point towards the importance of workplace safety:
- According to the International Labour Organization, 270 million occupational accidents occur in the world each year.
- According to OSHA, around 6 million workers encounter a nonfatal injury or illness each year.
- Every 7 seconds, a worker is injured on the job, quotes the National Safety Council. It also states that the most common types of work-related injuries are sprains, strains, soreness, back pain, cuts, and lacerations.
Some kinds of injuries are more frequent in specific jobs. For instance, people doing manufacturing unit jobs get lacerations and back injuries. Chefs frequently cut and burn themselves while at their job. Falling from height and bruises are very common in construction jobs.
As an employee, you can adopt the following ways to make sure that you and others working alongside you are safe and sound:
1) Voice Your Concerns:
As a part of risk assessment, you should know what can be dangerous for you and what could be the solution to it. You can even assign specific areas in your workplace to a few more colleagues so that they can also stay vigilant of the following risk factors:
- Insufficient precautions — If there is any process that requires certain precautions before conduction, make sure all employees are following those precautionary measures.
- Any type of leak — Just like you keep an eye at your home on any water, gas, or chemical leak, you need to stay alert for the same at your workplace as well. There have been numerous incidents where the lives of many workers were sadly lost due to a hazardous leak. Make sure all the combustible materials are at a safe distance from each other and inform the authorities right away if you detect any form of leakage. Timely action is crucial as such leaks can cause potential tragedies very quickly.
- Inadequate ventilation — this is in continuation with the leak detection but should be a separate reason for concern as proper ventilation is vital to avoid other health risks for the workers. An area that is poorly vented can cause breathing difficulty. The temperature can also go to an extreme, which is dangerous not only for the workers but for the equipment as well.
- Tripping hazards — tripping, slipping, and falling is very common at workplaces. There are many factors that you, as an employee, can look out for. These include risks such as uneven stairs, slippery tiles, any spill, power cords coming in the way, and open lower drawers. You can efficiently resolve some of these on your own, but you should talk to the building manager for other risks.
If you notice something at the worksite that could potentially be hazardous, inform your supervisor as soon as possible. Your supervisor must take care of the unsafe situation right away. If he is negligent, you can report the issue to the Health and Safety Executive instead.
2) Work Injury Claim:
Even if every type of precaution is taken, accidents can happen at work. If you get hurt at work, obtaining financial compensation from your employer is your right. It is a significant relief for the sufferer if his medical expenses get covered. Still, you cannot jump to quick assumptions without getting informed about the work injury claims.
If any such untoward incident happens, it is wise to consult with your work injury lawyer so that you can get a fair idea of all the legalities.
You may find that you are not eligible to claim benefits if you are an independent contractor, or if your company is exempted from workers’ compensation by the state. But, if you are fortunate enough to be eligible and have a personal injury claim, then you can expect to be compensated in full. Your company will pay for your injury-related expenses once your request is successful.
3) Wear Protective Equipment
Depending on the worksite, your company must provide you with PPE (personal protective equipment) for free. Wearing it will keep you safe from exposure to any harmful element. Do not ever trivialize the importance of well-fitting protective wear while at work.
Coming into close contact with hazardous material can put you at a higher risk of a work-related injury. Your company has to supply you with the PPE, and you can demand it if it fails to do so. You can also complain if the equipment is damaged, such as torn suits, ill-fitting helmets, and scratched lenses of eyewear.
A few examples of professions that wear PPE as a part of their daily working life:
- Doctors require full protective gear, like hazmat suits, if they are working in the infectious diseases department. They must put on gloves, masks, and surgical caps and gowns if they work in surgery.
- Construction workers are required to put on helmets and hi-vis jackets.
- Certain sports require players to wear protective gloves, helmet, and knee pads to avoid trauma.
- Beekeepers wear specially fabricated PPE to prevent bee stings.
- Firefighters wear a densely layered protective gear to save them from fumes and gases on the rescue mission
- Divers remain safe in deep waters by wearing underwater masks, goggles, and diving suits.
4) Use of Mechanical Assistance
To lift heavy objects and carry them around, you must take help from mechanical equipment, instead of trying to do it yourself. If your workplace has a shortage of mechanical assistance, inform the management to ensure proper arrangements. You can easily prevent back and muscle injuries, fractures, and other such injuries by taking aid of machinery.
People who work at construction sites or warehouses frequently need to work off the ground. For them, knowledge about working at heights safety guide will ensure they are unharmed. Companies should use proper safety equipment for off the ground tasks.
5) Check Whether the Machinery Is Properly Maintained
Almost every workplace has several types of machines, be it a construction site, a hospital, or even a small office. Though it is the responsibility of the maintenance department to check whether the machines are working or not periodically, it helps when the workers, too, stay vigilant of any technical fault. By identifying the damage, you can immediately inform the relevant authorities so that they can take action.
Keep a tab on any maintenance your workplace machinery might be needing. You are the one using it, so you will immediately know if something is wrong with it. It isn’t necessary to use equipment till it breaks down beyond repair. If it is maintained and serviced regularly, not only will it be safe for you and everyone around, it will last longer as well.
“Prepare and prevent, don’t repair and repent.” – Anonymous
6) Adopt Workplace Ergonomics
You must have experienced back pain, muscle strains, and headaches due to being in a wrong posture for long. Particularly, students who work alongside their studies are severely affected by it as they are already very exhausted. Here is where ergonomics come to the rescue.
Ergonomics, when adopted at the workplace, abstains from an awkward posture, high temperature, eye strain, etc. This prevents the chance of employee burnout. Consequently, workplace productivity is increased, and the risk of injuries is cut down.
If you work on the computer all day long, your chair should be adjusted to support your back for a straight posture. You can place a pillow for lumbar support. Your screen should be on your eye level to reduce eye strain and correct neck position. Use headphones instead of tilting your head to talk on the phone’s receiver.
If you still have to be in an awkward position anyhow, do not prolong it and take frequent breaks to relax your body.
7) Emergency Response Training
Every employer must communicate safety plans effectively with the workers. All types of companies should make a comprehensive plan on how to deal with an emergency, and employees should cooperate by showing commitment towards it. If there is a lack of any safety plan, there can be huge losses if any unfortunate incident happens.
All employees should be a part of the emergency response training conducted by the company. Such exercises are crucial for workers’ safety and health. If every employee undergoes this training, it will equip them with life-saving skills. It significantly reduces the haphazard caused by miscommunication at times of an emergency.
Professional trainers formulate a quick plan that ensures everyone’s safety and speeds up the resumption of normal operations. Companies commission these trainers to teach emergency procedures to their employees in case any disaster happens.
The workers are told where the emergency response equipment is placed and how to use it correctly. They are also taught how to leave the building safely is evacuation is needed. Some employees are assigned to fulfill specific tasks such as first aid, moving the rest of employees to a safe place, and more of the like. In short, a comprehensive plan is made and practiced that prevents significant losses in case of any incident.
8) Stay Hydrated
A study conducted by the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory concluded that Dehydration makes you sleepy.
When we’re dehydrated, our energy levels go down. Staying hydrated will keep our muscles energized and our productivity at full potential. Drinking water wards off fatigue, dehydration headaches, moodiness, and sleepiness very effectively.
An adequate water intake wards off several diseases, many of which greatly hinder your performance at work. If you get stuck in work and forget to drink water, you can set a reminder on your phone so that you can take a glass of water every two hours.
9) Consider Taking Part in Your Company’s Employee Wellness Program
Businesses who are genuinely devoted to their employees’ well-being frequently conduct wellness programs and even offer gym memberships to the workers. They know that by helping their workers stay fit, they can achieve success in the longer run.
A company’s wellness program can be as little as encouraging employees verbally to stay healthy or go as far as creating an in-house gym or buying them gym memberships. Many organizations even conduct yoga classes and swimming sessions for their staff.
Whatever your company is offering, make sure you take advantage of it. Your employer is generous enough to assist you in taking good care of yourself, so do not take this opportunity for granted. Regular physical exercise will build your immunity and ward off ailments. It will also lessen your chances of stress-related illnesses that hinder your productivity.
If your organization has placed a suggestion box, take advantage of it. Politely highlight your concerns, if any, and suggest efficient ways that can make the workplace more secure for everyone. Even the self-appraisal form can be used for this purpose as you can take the opportunity to communicate concerns regarding health and safety.
Complying with the above tips will ensure your safety at work. Do not hesitate to set your health and safety as your topmost priority. It is imperative not only to avoid injuries but also to boost productivity. Employers and the workers could go hand in hand to make the workplace as secure as possible.