Look around and you will quickly discover there are all kinds of jobs that have workers out in the field all day long.
From construction to landscaping and public service work, there are plenty of jobs that do not involve sitting in an office. Field-based jobs require a different kind of mindset where workplace safety is concerned.
Health and safety regulations are largely the domain of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) here in the UK. Regulations cover a long list of areas including:
- General workplace safety.
- Fire safety in the workplace.
- Health and safety on ships.
- Safety in regard to missionary.
- Safety in home-run businesses.
Needless to say that UK employers are legally obligated to ensure a safe working environment for all staff. It is incumbent upon business owners to make sure that safety is a priority. Indeed, it should be the very first priority.
Safety in the field
Workplace safety in the field can be a bit more challenging. Why? Because field work often involves circumstances beyond the employer’s control. Consider a construction crew specialising in residential framing. Neither crew members nor their employer has any control over the weather. They have to work with whatever they get.
The best company owners and managers can do is seek to recognise common safety concerns field-based teams are likely to encounter. Then they work out policies and procedures to mitigate hazards. A comprehensive policy backed up by definitive action goes a long way toward a company meeting its workplace safety obligations.
When you think field-based teams, you think of vehicles as well. Many of the industries that employ teams in the field provide vehicles used by team members to do their work. As such, vehicle safety is a prime consideration. Under no circumstances should employers be sending teams into the field with vehicles that do not meet minimum safety standards.
Vehicles should undergo routine inspections to make sure they are in good working order. Inspections should cover everything from tyres to breaks and lighting. The need for vehicle safety diligence is especially prevalent where HGVs and buses are concerned.
Vehicles should also be equipped with first aid kits. Although vehicle-specific first aid kits might have been hard to come by in the past, that is no longer the case. In 2019, approved vehicle first aid kits are available throughout the UK. It is a matter of finding a vendor who carries them.
Field-based teams may face certain kinds of safety issues based on their occupations. For example, at-height work is always a concern. That same construction crew that has to worry about weather conditions also has to be safe when working at heights. At-height safety policies cover things like ladder and scaffold usage, safety harnesses, and so forth.
Another example is safety on ships. Maritime enterprises are exposed to an entirely different set of risks that are unique to their respective occupations. Ensuring safety in the workplace requires understanding those unique risks and addressing them appropriately.
Safety in individual interactions
How many of us think about safety in terms of personal interactions? In some occupations, this sort of thing is actually a big deal. If you’re not sure why you need to look no further than an HSE document reviewing case studies of work-related violence directed at field workers.
The document looks at cases reported by British Gas. It highlights conflicts between field representatives and those customers they interact with. It covers sales staff, service engineers, and others who interact directly with customers.
Safety in this regard involves a number of different things. Field workers should be trained to recognise potentially dangerous situations. They should be trained in how to react when such a situation arises. They should learn how to stay safe at night, how to protect expensive equipment, how to deal with verbal abuse, and so forth.
Planning, training, and drilling
If it was necessary to come up with an overall theme describing what it takes to ensure workplace safety for field-based teams, it could be done with three words: planning, training, and drilling. These three things make up the core of workplace safety in the field.
Companies that plan to be safe put policies in place to that effect. Management thinks things through with the expectation that potentially unsafe circumstances will occur. With policies and plans in place, the next step is to implement training.
Safety training cannot be emphasized enough. The more thoroughly team members are trained, the better equipped they are to deal with dangerous situations. And by the way, training is not a one-time thing. Safety training should be ongoing; it should be a regular part of the workplace experience.
Finally, drilling gives team members an opportunity to practice what they have learned through their training. You know what they say about practice: it makes perfect. Combining regular drills with routine training increases workplace safety. It is just that simple.
In closing, understand that workplace safety is not an option. It is the law of the land. Employers have an obligation to ensure a safe working environment at all times. Even in the field.