Workplace Safety: Protecting Workers Against Physical Dangers

Much of the discussion about safety in the business arena has to do with protecting digital data. We are all about secure servers, firewalls, and the latest IT tricks to prevent cyber criminals from doing what they do. Lost in all of this is the need to promote workplace safety that protects workers against physical dangers.

managers discussing workplace safety concerns

The average workplace in industrialized nations is relatively safe as compared to what was experienced 50 to 100 years ago. Yet safety can always be improved. There are always ways to do things better so as to improve safety and promote good health among workers.

In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive has published rather lengthy guidance that instructs employers in a myriad of ways they can make the workplace safer. We will look at some of them in this post. Note that they apply not just to the UK, but to workplaces the world over.

Regular Risk Assessments

Workplace safety begins with assessing the current state of things. Those tasked with ensuring a safe workplace will look at a full range of possible hazards in just about every area of the building. They will look at:

  • lighting and signage
  • staircases, elevators, etc.
  • condition of walkways
  • maintenance procedures
  • safety procedures and policies
  • safety equipment and supplies.

Virtually everything that has to do with ensuring workplace safety should be assessed on a regular basis. Those assessments should be based on established standards so that personal opinion is left out of the equation. And where an assessment reveals deficiencies, corrections should be made immediately.

Common Safety Equipment

Certain industries require specific kinds of safety equipment particular to what they do. For example, businesses in the construction trades must supply hard hats, harnesses for working at height, and other similar pieces of equipment to their workers. On the other hand, other pieces of safety equipment are industry agnostic.

Take fire extinguishers, for example. A fire extinguisher is a basic piece of safety kit appropriate for nearly any work environment. Regardless of where your company operates – be that in an office, store front, factory, etc. – it’s imperative that you get the right fire extinguisher for your business.

Another common piece of safety equipment is the defibrillator. A defibrillator is a life-saving machine used to immediately treat cardiac arrest by delivering an electrical shock to the heart. Statistics show that defibrillators save lives, so having one around is always a good idea.

Increasing First Aid Capabilities

Employers have a moral obligation and, in some cases, a legal obligation to ensure employees get immediate help if they are injured or fall ill at work. A big part of meeting this obligation is increasing first aid capabilities in the workplace.

First aid capabilities boil down to three things: knowledge, training, and equipment and supplies. Knowledge and training go hand-in-hand more often than not. To that end, it is recommended that various members of a company staff be trained as first aid providers. These individuals are trained in basic first aid techniques including CPR and using defibrillators.

In terms of equipment and supplies, the defibrillator is just a starting point. Every company should have at least one first aid kit easily accessible. The larger the workspace, the more first aid kits should be found on site. A typical first aid kit contains a variety of dressings and bandages along with plasters, scissors and tweezers, medical gloves, and more.

Practising first aid on a dummie

Preventing Workplace Accidents

Everything discussed thus far is only as relevant as a company’s efforts to prevent workplace accidents and illnesses. In short, it is far better to prevent an unsafe situation than having to respond after a problem occurs. That is why the Health and Safety Executive stresses accident prevention.

Employees can and should be trained how to work safely. In a manufacturing environment, for example, they should be trained in ways to keep their work areas clean and free of obstruction. They should be trained to pay attention to moving equipment, other workers, and so forth.

In the office environment, prevention includes eliminating potentially hazardous conditions. It means keeping walkways clear, ensuring lighting is adequate, maintaining fixtures in good working condition, etc. Prevention is all about making the workplace safer by eliminating those things that can lead to injury or illness.

Physical Safety is Important

There is little doubt that cyber security and data protection are critically important in the digital age. But let us not forget about physical safety. A workplace can be digitally secured to the highest standards and still be unsafe for workers. As such, it takes a concerted effort by all stakeholders to guarantee the workplace is a safe environment for everyone.