As our previous posts on workplace safety statistics illustrate, accidents and injuries are tragically common in our places of work, be it in the office, construction site or factory floor. However, there are a number of common traps to avoid – and steps you can take – to ensure the safety of you and your staff. And who knows, by avoiding these 7 deadly safety sins, you might even end up being recognised as a RoSPA Guardian Angel…
1. Never assume – Find out first!
It is never safe to assume that staff will just ‘know’ how to stay safe. After all, each person’s perception of risk is shaped by numerous factors, including training, education and life experience, and is therefore likely to differ significantly from individual to individual. Therefore it is vital that employees receive regular safety training – preferably delivered by a professional, experienced organisation – in order to ensure that they have both the knowledge and the confidence to protect themselves, and your business, from disaster!
2. Don’t walk on by
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – if you see something, say something! Work-related illness and injury are responsible for an astonishing 27 million lost working days each year, not to mention the accompanying pain and suffering these incidents cause. Yet as we’ve discussed in our previous office safety post, many accidents could be prevented by simply improving vigilance and reporting. Remember, for every major injury there are approximately 300 near misses, representing an opportunity for intervention. If you see something, be sure to report it – you never know, you might just save a life.
3. Don’t make do with the wrong tools
A bad workman man might blame his tools… but maybe he has a point – especially if the tools aren’t up to the job! It’s also worth remembering that injuries aren’t only caused by employees using the wrong tools, but sometimes by using the right tools in the wrong way. The PUWER regulations were introduced to make working life safer for everyone using and coming into contact with machinery and equipment. They help to ensure that all workplace equipment is suitable for its intended purpose, regularly maintained to ensure safety, only used by people who have received adequate training and regularly inspected by a competent worker. For more information on how to use workplace equipment in the right way, see our free PUWER guide.
4. Thou shalt not rush!
We’ve all done it, but hurrying to get a job done often leads to cutting corners and making mistakes – which in turn compromises safety. While it might be human instinct to take the path of least resistance, it’s worth remembering that the time saved by rushing is nothing compared to the time, costs and heartache caused by a major accident. Training to remind your staff of the dangers of complacency is a good place to start, and if you’re looking for examples of how your life can be forever changed in a second, look no further than this post, describing exactly what happens when things go wrong.
5. Never get drunk (or worse) at work!
According to government research, substance misuse costs society over £36 billion a year! Substance abuse in the workplace can be particularly devastating, not only impacting on an individual’s health and working relationships, but also reducing productivity, increasing absences and increasing the risk of accidents. Even if there is no evidence of current drug misuse, it is always good practice to have a policy that will enable employers to deal with any problems that may arise in the future – as well as helping to ensure you are fulfilling your legal duty of care to your employees!
6. Don’t be afraid to take a minute
As we discussed in the first part of our work related stress series, poor mental health – including stress and anxiety – is a major issue in the workplace, calculated to cost the UK economy £26 billion pounds each year. While stress itself is not an illness, excessive and prolonged stress can lead to serious mental and physical illness. As an employer, it is vital that you take practical steps to help reduce excessive stress at work, making your workplace a healthier, happier environment for all. For more information, see the second part of our work related stress guide.
7. Never be afraid to speak up
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is important that you feel you can speak up if you become aware of a safety issue in the workplace. Perhaps you are uncertain how to use a new piece of equipment and require training, or maybe you sense that a task you’ve been asked to carry out is unsafe. Either way, it is always better to speak up, risk looking foolish and to go home safely to your family at the end of the day than to end up seriously injuring yourself… or worse.