Staying healthy and safe at work is important. But sometimes, we are so preoccupied with each area’s specific safety concerns that we forget safety begins simply, and becomes more detailed as you become more focused. You need to build a solid safety foundation from which you can build your whole health and safety programme. In this way, it is much easier to assess on a regular basis whether you are still compliant with SHE legislation.
No matter your job role, follow these 10 golden rules and reduce your risks of injury and illness at work.
Rule #1: Understand the risks
Once you know the particular hazards of your job or workplace, you can take proactive steps to reduce your risk of work-related injury or illness. Essentially, being informed about all possible risks makes you more informed about the precautions you’ll need to take.
Rule #2: Reduce workplace stress
Common causes of workplace stress include long hours, a heavy workload, job insecurity and conflicts with co-workers or bosses. Stress can lead to depression, sleeping difficulties and problems with concentration. Regular exercise, consciously identifying and resolving issues, and reconnecting with what you love about your job will all help reduce unnecessary stress in your day-to-day life.
Rule #3: Take regular breaks
Staying fresh and alert will help you avoid injury or burnout. Schedule the most difficult tasks of each day for times when your concentration is best, such as first thing in the morning. Take ‘time outs’, even if this just means getting up from your desk and taking a short walk.
Rule #4: Avoid stooping or twisting
Use ergonomically designed furniture and equipment, and rearrange your work area so that everything you need is within easy reach. Do not be afraid to speak to your HR department or office manager about acquiring the right chair or work station that will give you optimal comfort.
Rule #5: Use mechanical aids whenever possible
Instead of trying to lift or carry a heavy object, use a wheelbarrow, conveyor belt, crane or forklift. Also remember to ask for help from your colleagues.
Rule #6: Protect your back
If you do need to pick up and carry heavy loads, keep the load close to your body and lift with your thigh muscles. This means bending at the knees, lifting the load in question and using your thighs to return to standing, rather than placing all the weight in your arms and back.
Rule #7: Wear protective equipment that suits the task
It seems a no brainer, but if you wear protective gear, such as earplugs, earmuffs, hard hats, safety goggles, gloves or full-face masks correctly, you can dramatically reduce your risk of injury.
Rule #8: Stay sober
Alcohol and drugs are a contributing factor in around three per cent of workplace fatalities, so under no circumstances should you indulge in either at work. Report anyone you have witnessed drinking or using drugs at work.
Rule #9: Talk over any concerns
You need to inform your employer or human resources manager about hazards and risks you have noticed in your workplace. Your employer is legally obliged to ensure a safe working environment, but they need every employee’s help to guarantee this.
Rule #10: Know your rights
Organisations or unions can offer information and advice on workplace safety issues.