The good news is that workplace accidents are dropping; according to the Health and Safety Executive around half as many workers were fatally injured in 2014/15 compared to 20 years before.
The bad news is that 142 people still died of work-related injuries, and that despite accidents progressing on a downward trend (611,000 workers last year) there are signs that things are leveling off. Throw in the huge number of days off caused by accidents, and it’s clear that there is still work to do.
It is a cliché, but one which could save a lot of time, stress, pain and worse to employer and employee: prevention is better than cure. Simply being proactive in spotting potential hazards, or investing funds to introduce new safety measures, are two ways of limiting or eradicating danger.
Formal Safety Policies
The first step is to introduce formal safety policies in a company handbook, to be distributed digitally or present for all to read. If everyone knows how items should be carried or stored, or what immediate steps must be taken following an accident or mishap, there is a lower likelihood of danger. Someone will oversee the implementation of the book, probably with the title of safety coordinator. However, one person can only do so much, and it falls upon the workforce as a whole to be eagle-eyed and make recommendations as to how to improve safety – such as installing and using the right safety equipment.
This equipment will clearly depend on the workplace itself, but as a bare minimum it could include the correct use of strong ladders; wearing visors and good protective clothing; making sure that correct fire extinguishers are visible and smoke detectors are in place; and providing easy access to first aid kits. Several of these are legal requirements so ensuring they are installed is paramount, otherwise prosecution could follow.
Additional to this are the many measures that could be taken that are not necessarily legal requirements, but definitely advisable. Take visibility as an example – are all the rooms in the building well-lit? Are all shelves correctly constructed, and do any have a tendency to let items roll off them that could then become slip hazards?
If you work in an environment of passing heavy vehicles such as lorries, vans and forklift trucks, technology can be a real boon to safety. Usage around vehicles, covering the number of hours that a driver can operate them and any mandatory training, is covered by the Health and Safety at Work act 1974.
Although they are cumbersome and large, one would be surprised how quiet such vehicles can be, and the issues that causes. Many companies now not only use reversing sensors from companies such as Brigade Electronics to warn of objects (including people) to the rear or sides, but also alarms that tell the person behind. Devices such as these are commonly approved by the Noise Abatement Society, so they are not even particularly obtrusive.
To repeat the earlier statement – prevention is better than cure. The correct measures and equipment should be allied to the correct level of concentration and care across the workplace to ensure everyone understands this.