It is well known that it is an employer's responsibility to ensure health and safety standards are maintained within the workplace to protect the personal safety of employees. An employer can abide by the UK health and safety standards through complying with specific legislation, such as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Although employers should be ensuring the workplace is a risk and hazard free zone, it is also an employee's own personal responsibility to ensure they protect their personal safety as best as possible. Therefore, training and knowledge regarding how to minimise risks to your own personal safety is essential.
Here are some simple steps which can help you ensure your own personal safety in the workplace is protected:
Of course, this is all relevant to your specific workplace. For example, if you are regularly working at height, then there are certain steps which you can conduct to minimise risks to your personal safety, which you would not have to take if you were working in an office. You need to apply everything to the context of your workplace, taking into consideration the risks and hazards which are present there.
However, some standard steps which can be applied to the context of different workplaces in order to minimise the risks to your personal safety could be:
1) If possible, always take the option of a less risky alternative in order to conduct a job, if it is going to create the same outcome anyway. For example, if you are working within a laboratory and for an experiment you have the option to use a more hazardous substance or a substance which is less hazardous, yet both will achieve the same outcome, then opt for the substance which is less hazardous and will minimise risk to your personal safety when handling the substance.
2) If possible, set up your workplace (and particular sections in the workplace) to ensure there is reduced exposure to any hazards which have been identified. For example, if there is a leakage from the ceiling in the office, ensure that your desk has been moved a sufficient distance away so that it is no longer in contact with the hazard.
3) Ensure that you do not come into contact with a hazard which has already been identified. If there is a spilt liquid on the floor which could cause an individual to slip, avoid this area as it has been identified to hold a risk and therefore you do not need to encounter that risk.
4) If your workplace requires personal protective equipment, then ensure that you wear this equipment whenever you are in the workplace. For example, if you are handling hazardous substances and you have been given protective gloves or body wear, ensure you wear this at all times when handling the substances.
5) Ensure that you personally know where to go to if you need to find some first-aid or washing products to help if an incident has occurred in which you need to clean a cut or bandage a wound.
It is essential that co-operation is maintained between employers and employees to ensure that health and safety standards are maintained, and subsequently risks to personal safety are minimised. Training and knowledge of steps to reduce risks to personal safety is therefore essential.