Safety in the workplace

By Editorial on November 6, 2015

Danger notice

Your employees are a precious commodity. The right ones can be tough to find, take a long time to train and be very expensive to replace. That’s why you need to look after them. Protect your staff and you’ll have a safe, smooth-running business. In the UK, an estimated 4.1 million working days were lost to workplace injuries in 2014/15. To ensure injuries in your company are not part of these statistics you need to operate a safe workplace; and to achieve this goal you need to consider a number of factors…

Do people know how to report problems in the workplace?

If employees do not talk to one another then you leave yourself open to danger. Your ‘front line’ staff will be the people who spot safety issues and they need to have a clear channel of communication through which they can report these. Communication isn’t just about reporting problems though. It’s about acting on the matters that are reported to you and showing that you do listen. Communication is a two-way process and without a healthy conversation you’re less likely to be able to run a safe workplace.

Do people know how to do their job safely?

Training is crucial to safety. People need to understand basic health and safety requirements. They should be shown how to do their jobs properly and be given regular refresher sessions on any tasks that may carry a high risk or hazard.

Do people have the right equipment to do their job?

It’s no good being trained properly if you are then ill-equipped to carry out the task in hand. Equipment in your workplace should be regularly tested to ensure it is running safely and efficiently and where specialist functions are undertaken then the right equipment should be deployed. Many items of personal protective equipment such as high vis clothing and safety boots are widely available online, but if you are sourcing specialised equipment make sure you can be specific and target trusted suppliers of quality products, for example plastic media blasting from Airblast AFC not just ‘industrial blasting from somewhere’. Know what you need and who can supply it for you, then you’ll pick the right equipment to carry out safe, secure and efficient operations.

Do your staff work a safe number of hours?

It’s easy to lose track of the number of hours your employees actually work. Try to make sure they take the right amount of breaks and use up all of their holiday time to avoid burning out. It’s good news if your employees are willing to stay ‘after hours’ to complete a task but, if they do, try to reward them with some time off in lieu so that they don’t become over-tired. 

Does you business have a safety policy that is fit for purpose?

Your workplace needs to have a proper policy that covers all of the safety needs of your operation. It needs to identify any hazards, highlight training and equipment requirements and set out the right channels of communication. It also needs to be more than a token gesture. Make it accessible to all and review it regularly, particularly if you change the way you work to adopt new working practises.  Similarly, ensure you have appropriate Rick Assessments in place.  The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) web site provides a lot of help and advice on Risk Management, including interactive tools and Risk Assessment templates. Smaller companies, particularly if they are office based, should have no problem completing policies and risk assessments themselves. However, for larger companies, particular in high risk industries such as manufacturing and construction, do make sure you have sufficiently trained and experienced personnel to take overall responsibility for Health and Safety. If necessary, employ external consultants to ensure your policies and systems are kept up to date and are indeed fit for purpose. You might also wish to consider external certification such as OHSAS 18001 which validates your health and safety protocols against internationally recognised best practice.

Article by Patrick Vernon on behalf of Airblast AFC.

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