Accidents happen in every walk of life and often, are down to lack of concentration or simple carelessness but accidents in the workplace can happen because equipment is not safe to use or a risk assessment hasn’t taken place.
Clearly, a worker should not use equipment if he or she thinks it isn’t safe but employers are bound by a duty of care which means they are ultimately responsible for making sure that both staff and visitors are not put at risk.
So employers must ensure that all equipment and machinery is safe for use. This means that it should be inspected regularly in case it has been damaged or misused.
Ensuring Safety in Your Business
Most obviously, you need to keep the workplace clean and safe for all and ensure that people are protected from falling from heights or being exposed to hazardous substances.
You should also check that all roads, walkways, floors and stairs are safe to use and not blocked by large pieces of equipment or piled up stock.
Although serious accidents can occur with large or specialised machinery, many injuries happen every year when employees are using basic every day equipment such as stepladders, hand saws or mechanical screwdrivers.
So it’s extremely important to make sure that all equipment is inspected regularly. In most cases, a daily pre-check should be carried out. You can emphasise the importance to your workers through regular toolbox talks.
Show them some examples of accidents which have happened through every day equipment and make sure they know the importance of checking all equipment before they use it.
For example, before using a ladder they should check it visually for any broken or cracked rungs and ensure that the feet are solid.
They need to check that any locking devices on stepladders are working properly and should use any recommended safety equipment at heights, such as a harness.
Other equipment such as machinery should be visually checked and employees must know who is responsible for checking that any safety guards or switches are in good working order and that any moving parts, waste collectors and other gadgets have been oiled regularly.
If machinery has an exhaust system, this needs to be inspected on a regular basis.
Research by the Health and Safety Executive has shown that experience is no substitute for safety guards or equipment.
It takes only a split second of concentration loss to lose a finger in cutting equipment but often, experienced workers have disabled safety features to make a machine easier to use.
It is easy to become complacent about small equipment such as wood saws or mechanical screwdrivers but they are capable of causing serious injury if not well maintained or used correctly.
Employers should make a list of all equipment in use and decide how and when it should be checked and who will note that an inspection has been undertaken. In the event of an accident, this will at least show that dangers have been taken seriously and that procedures are in place to keep employees safe.
Lots of every day equipment has the potential to cause injury unless workers have been given personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce the chances of harm.
PPE equipment can vary from something as simple as clothing which provides protection against the weather to safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, safety footwear, noise reduction headphones or safety harnesses.
If PPE is needed for a job, it must be provided by the employer and they cannot charge employees for it.
It is important that employers provide the required PPE and ensure that it is fit for purpose. Check gloves for holes or damage, ensure that headphones are not broken and follow guidelines for checking harnesses.
Employees also have a responsibility towards their own safety and can refuse to undertake any job which they consider unsafe.
As an employee you can reduce the risk of accidents by reporting any faulty equipment or machinery as soon as possible. Make sure equipment that you are using is in good condition and well looked after. It should always be cleaned well and correctly stored after use.
If you believe that your employer is not taking safety seriously, you have a few options:
- Talk to your employer/manager and make them aware of any issues
- Let your union or safety representative know of any problems
If your employer does not take action over any issue, you can report it to HSE or to your local authority through the environmental health department but it is best if you first give your employer the opportunity to put things right.