What Can Workers and Employers Do to Prevent Injuries?
Although employers are responsible for providing a safe work environment, everyone plays a role in safety.
Workplace injuries are an unfortunate reality that affects thousands of people every year. These incidents not only result in pain and suffering for the workers involved, but also lead to financial and operational losses for their employers. Consequently, it is crucial for all parties to take proactive measures to prevent accidents and ensure a safe working environment.
Understanding Common Workplace Injuries
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the most common types of workplace accidents that result in injuries include slips, trips and falls; handling, lifting or carrying; and being struck by a moving object. Some industries, such as construction, manufacturing and transportation, tend to have higher rates of workplace injuries due to the inherent hazards associated with their operations. Even outside of industries that are typically considered "dangerous," workplaces can present countless hazards, from fires to workplace violence to stressors that lead to mental health issues.
The Role of Employers in Preventing Injuries
Employers in every work sector are responsible for the health and safety of their employees. While workplaces can designate other professionals to manage these responsibilities, any injuries or health issues sustained by workers at a place of business will ultimately be the fault of the employer. If employers fail to meet their obligations to implement health and safety procedures and keep workers safe, they can expect legal repercussions, fines and damage to their reputation.
To avoid any of these issues, employers must make sure to consider the following key aspects of workplace safety.
Establish a Safe Work Environment. Before any work can begin, employers in the UK must satisfy the legal requirements of the HSE, meaning any premises that are to be used by the business must be thoroughly risk assessed by a trained professional, and hazards must be identified and mitigated or remedied.
A workplace must implement appropriate safety measures, such as providing adequate lighting, maintaining equipment and keeping premises clean and tidy to minimize the risk of accidents. By law, a workplace accident log should be made accessible to every member of staff, allowing them to report any hazards and accidents. Employers have a legal responsibility to report these accidents and can use the accident book to highlight and address risk factors or raise awareness of a particular issue among employees.
Employers must also ensure that legally mandated fire safety measures are in place, including smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, fire doors and signposted exits and fire extinguishers. Drills should be conducted regularly to ensure that the equipment works and there must be a procedure to follow in the event of a fire, led by a designated person who is trained to coordinate an evacuation.
Provide Necessary Resources. Employers should supply workers with PPE, safety training and clear signage to ensure their safety.
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 states: “Every employer shall ensure that suitable personal protective equipment is provided to [their] employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work except where and to the extent that such risk has been adequately controlled by other means which are equally or more effective.”
Employers must also make sure that employees are trained to use any equipment they may need to use safely, to avoid injuries caused by irresponsible or improper use.
Foster a Culture of Safety. Creating a culture of safety involves encouraging open communication and leading by example. Employers should actively promote safety awareness and demonstrate their commitment to worker wellbeing. If an employee raises an issue, the employer must take their concerns seriously and do whatever is necessary to remedy them. This may be through direct intervention, reform in company policy or by hiring a third party to solve the problem. Whatever the employer opts to do, they will be responsible for keeping their employees safe and well.
Legal Responsibilities and Consequences. Complying with health and safety regulations is a legal requirement for both workers and employers. Failure to do so can result in fines, penalties, workplace injury claims and damage to their reputation, which can have severe consequences for businesses.
The Role of Workers in Preventing Injuries
While the responsibility of maintaining a safe working environment falls on employers, workers still have a duty to keep themselves and the others around them safe. Otherwise, workers can expect to lose their jobs, incur legal repercussions from clients or struggle to hold their employers accountable.
Employees must do their part to foster a safe work environment by conducting themselves appropriately and following the health and safety procedures that have been put in place.
Personal Responsibility. Workers play a crucial role in preventing workplace injuries by following safety guidelines, using equipment correctly and reporting any hazards or concerns to their supervisors. By doing so, they can help create a safer work environment for themselves and their colleagues.
Workers should also take steps to hold their employers accountable for any issues that arise. If a worker suffers an injury and fails to report it, a similar accident could happen to someone else on the premises under the same circumstances. By reporting hazards and holding their employers to high standards, workers can help to create a safe environment for all who use it.
Maintaining Good Physical and Mental Health. Physical wellbeing is essential for avoiding injuries at work. Workers should get adequate rest and take steps to accommodate or address any health concerns that get in the way of their work. As well as increasing the chances of injury, employees who neglect their own health may struggle to work optimally and could end up making costly mistakes or underperforming, potentially resulting in the loss of their jobs.
Continuous Learning. Staying up-to-date with the latest industry-specific safety standards and best practices is vital for preventing accidents. Workers should engage in training sessions when offered by their employers and share their knowledge with colleagues to foster a culture of safety awareness and continuous improvement.
Go Above and Beyond
Investing in higher levels of health and safety than the minimum requirements has several benefits, including improved worker morale and productivity, reduced costs associated with workplace injuries and enhanced company reputation and competitiveness.
Workplace injuries are a significant concern for both workers and employers. By taking proactive steps to prevent accidents and create a safe working environment, we can all reduce the risk of injury and ensure the well-being of everyone around us.