Health & safety in the workplace: The must do list

“Health and safety” is one of those keywords heard in business.

It is used in regards to protecting workers from harm – or describing that one employee who likes to remind everyone how unsafe everything is; however, it’s more than just a buzzword. Putting appropriate measures in place for employees is vital to preventing workplace accidents.

work safetyOne of the most common workplace accidents is fatalities and injuries as a result of slips, trips, and falls, according to the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Often, companies are investigated and fined hundred to hundreds of thousands of pounds for failing to acknowledge unsafe work environments and safeguarding against preventable accidents. Here is the must-do list for health and safety in the workplace.

1. Risk assessment and training

For any business, conducting a risk assessment of workplace hazards is a legal requirement. Once those hazards have been identified and alleviated with appropriate safeguards such as installing more fire doors, or safety rails, then it’s time to train your staff.

Putting safety measures in place is no use unless employees are adequately trained. All employees need to know how to conduct themselves safely in the workplace whether it’s a restaurant, a hotel, a theme park, or an office.

Each different type of workplace needs to conduct a risk assessment, and decide what measures can be put in place to keep workers safe. For example, in an office, trailing wires might be considered a trip risk, so workplaces may put baskets underneath the desks to house extraneous wires.

In a commercial kitchen, there may be a policy that ensures all spills are quarantined and mopped within five minutes of the occurrence. Whatever measures and protocols are in place in your workplace, your employees need to know about them and receive updates so that safety and knowledge are second nature to everyone. The time and training costs will be much less than paying out in missed work days or fines if someone has an accident on the clock.

2. Employee accountability

Communicating regularly with your employees is a smart move for all businesses, but employees who live, breathe, and move within a workplace can help you assess what’s wrong. So if you own a factory, and the circular saw area is causing sickness each week from workers breathing in harmful particles, then you might need to invest in some personal protective equipment in the form of respiratory masks to alleviate the problems, and – while you’re at it – you’ll want to find out the long term effects of breathing sawdust for down the line.

Or maybe it isn’t your company at all! Maybe you’ve provided the respiratory equipment and employees find it uncomfortable to wear and they aren’t wearing it. You don’t want a lawsuit down the road so you’ll either have to enforce that employees must adhere to safety measures or – more reasonably – in addition to enforcing safety measures, you’ll want to listen to alternatives. Is there a better, more comfortable respiratory mask out there that your employees will wear?

For every industry, keep the lines of communication open. In the commercial kitchen, is there a better piece of equipment out there that your restaurant can afford that won’t say, cause a leak to the ice machine that causes pooling, slip hazards, or in the office, can you invest in standing desks to eliminate head, neck, and back strain, or encourage walking meetings or outside meetings to boost employee morale and health? Find ways to keep your employees both happy and safe. Happy employees will do tasks with fewer distractions, and, thus, more safely than that one guy who begrudgingly works for you and spends his day daydreaming about the day he can walk out of the company.

Listen to your employees when they tell you what they need to keep safe, so it may be slip-resistant footwear, it may be a more comfortable uniform, a new type of hard hat suspension, or a better-designed office chair. Listening to employees needs to help reduce workplace accidents and long-term health effects. 

3. Safe floor, matting, and footwear

Any workplace needs safe surfaces, especially where employees will walk and move constantly, so for offices, safe flooring will usually consist of carpet tiles that can be replaced when squares are frayed, damaged, or cause trip hazards. For commercial kitchens, there are special tiles that have slip-resistance as well as specialised slip-resistant rubber mats – which can also be used in hotels, bars, catering, and other restaurant spaces. Most people have been to those places that have slippery floors when they’re wet (or even when they’re dry) and those types of surfaces are fun for no one and – more than that – they’re really dangerous. If your risk assessment has determined that your workplace floors are highly slippery and you cannot replace the flooring or reduce slips with rugs – which can cause their own hazards – or slip-resistant mats, then you need to invest in slip-resistant footwear for every employee. Replacing footwear is cheaper than replacing a floor and preventing an accident is cheaper than the other two. Safety should always be a top priority, and often businesses don’t consider the safety of the floors themselves, so make sure that anything from carpeting to tile is analyzed if it’s a trip or slip hazard.

These are just three small, but very important health and safety measures for any business. Even with all of the safety measures in place, there are still over 640,000 workplace injuries in the UK each year, and 1.8 million cases of ill health, so it’s vital to keep abreast of anything that can cause harm to those who work for you. Follow these must-dos to keep your workplace safer for everyone, and to keep your profits high because employee accidents will not only hurt your profit margins but also your credibility and trust in the industry.