Health and safety in the workplace is not an ancillary concern for the average business. Not only is it deeply important for every company, regardless of industry or discipline, to incorporate an airtight health and safety programme, but it is also a legal requirement. But why is it so important, and how can good health and safety etiquette be promoted to your workforce?
Why is Health and Safety Important?
There were 142 work-related fatalities in the 2020-2021 period, 11 of which were administrative or support staff – demonstrating the importance of implementing strict health and safety procedures whatever the industry. Health and safety is important to your business for a number of reasons; the health of your employees ensures continued productivity in the workplace, with injury-related delays and absences reduced. Safe practice can also save your business money, especially with regard to compensation claims for workplace accidents.
Workplace health and safety programs utilise different disciplines to ensure the safety of staff: putting robust systems in place for the logging and awareness of site risks; promoting best practice for carrying out potentially dangerous or hazardous workplace tasks; and the implementation of rules for safe conduct in the workplace. Guidance differs from workplace to workplace, as each environment offers unique risks to the employee – for example, poor lifting technique in an office environment could cause an employee to suffer a back injury, necessitating documentation and training on the safe lifting of loads.
Promoting Health and Safety in the Workplace
Employers cannot enforce health and safety policy alone. Such policies require backing from employees across the business, in order that staff members can look out for each other and collectively ensure each other’s safety. This can be achieved through various promotional efforts; training is perhaps the most effective route, whereby staff are trained with regard to new policies, directives and techniques relevant to their department or role. A more passive route to promoting health and safety is the dissemination of rules and documentation regarding workplace health and safety, including illustrative posters showing rules for carrying out particular tasks.
The Provision of PPE
Training and the setting of rules are only one fact of a business’ health and safety front; businesses are also required to provide adequate personal protective equipment (or PPE) for tasks that might require them. This is most common in the construction industry; safety boots should be provided in order to keep the sensitive parts of workers’ feet safe from heavy machinery and crushing hazards, while hard-hats are required for protection from falling objects.
However, there are other ways in which businesses may need to protect their staff. Those frequently working in dark conditions should be provided with high-visibility vests or jackets to ensure their presence is made known to others – and, more recently, businesses operating during the coronavirus pandemic were required to provide masks for their workforce, in order to protect them from potential airborne pathogens.