It doesn’t matter where you work; accidents can always happen. Whether you operate a busy construction site, run the local supermarket or rent a state-of-the-art office building, your workers are always faced by the risk of an accident.
Although the severity of these risks may vary between different environments and industries, one thing always remains the same: employers have a responsibility to minimise any potential hazards and risks in the workplace. Unfortunately, accidents at work are becoming all too common, with the latest HSE figures showing there were over 71,000 reported workplace injuries in the last year alone.
Perhaps more alarmingly, work-related injury and illness equated to over 30 million lost working days in 2018, even more, horrifying 144 people were killed while at work last year. To make sure you’re fulfilling your legal obligations and adequately protecting your employees, you’ll need to take steps towards reducing the risk of accident and creating a much safer working environment.
Deliver a health and safety induction
Due to an overall lack of experience and familiarity with the working environment, workers stand a much higher chance of suffering an accident in their first six months at a workplace. In many cases, new workers fail to recognise seemingly obvious hazards and risks; while others feel so eager and keen to impress, they put themselves at risk by failing to understand or identify hazards associated with their new role and the workplace.
Whether you’re hiring a fresh-faced intern taking their first steps in the industry, or a senior staff member boasting bags of previous experience, every employer must deliver a health and safety induction to new workers. This needs to be carefully planned and easy to understand, ensuring that new workers from all backgrounds understand how to work safely and what to do in the event of a fire. Health and safety orientation or induction might also be necessary where an existing employee is redeployed, moves to another role or is promoted.
An effective induction will typically involve a tour of the workplace, with a senior member of staff pointing out the most dangerous hazards, showing employees how to avoid them, explaining what controls or procedures are in place and what they are or are not authorised to do.
However, a truly outstanding induction will involve proper training in health and safety software and procedures, with many employers now utilising eLearning courses from reputable providers who understand the subject as experienced chartered practitioners. Once employees are more aware of the dangers in a particular workplace, they’ll be far less likely to expose themselves to those risks and, therefore, the risk of accident or ill health is significantly reduced.
Carry out a risk assessment
Following the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, 1999, employers are required to provide a risk assessment, and where necessary they should be written down where there are risks that are significant or the controls need to be recorded and communicated. A failure to do so might inevitably result in prosecution, hefty fines, imprisonment, civil claims and compensation as well as accidents and ill health which could have been avoided, while the lack of a risk assessment will also show employees how important you consider their health, safety and wellbeing.
A risk assessment should include what the hazards are, who can be harmed and how, a thorough examination of the working environment and the practises you have in place, highlighting any apparent risks alongside the measures put in place to eliminate, reduce and control them. If you find any of these control measures to be inadequate or not being followed, then your risk assessment should also include details of the improvements you plan to make and when the risk assessment must be reviewed.
Invest in information and signage
Once you’ve identified the main risks in your working environment, you then need to draw attention to them through information and training. In addition to reflecting how seriously you consider their wellbeing, effective health and safety information, reminders and signs will always remind workers of nearby hazards, provide reminders while also reinforcing the safety procedures your organisation has put in place.
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Safety signs must meet the requirements of Safety (Safety Signs and Signals Regulations) 1996. This generally means symbols and shapes that usually make up these signs must be incredibly easy to understand, meaning that employees can quickly be reminded of the hazards involved before trying to operate a particular piece of equipment or understand that they are using a hazardous substance covered under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002 (COSHH).