- Here are five vital tips to create a safe and healthy workplace for your employees.
Whether you’re new to the entrepreneur world, or are a seasoned business owner, you’ll most certainly understand the importance of health and safety in the workplace. Without it, you leave yourself open to disputes and legal claims.
It’s always helpful to get a reminder to make sure everything is in check, even if you have been established for a while. In this blog, we’ve rounded up 5 key factors to consider when creating a safe environment for your team.
‘Ergonomics’ refers to the science of ensuring the workplace is set up in an efficient and safe way. The most common example of this is making sure that desks are set up according to each employee’s individual height. For example, making sure that desktop computers are in line with their eyes and that they are not looking down, straining their neck and shoulders.
For those who are using laptops, consider using a stand to raise them to eye level, or even plugging them into a monitor that is set up correctly. Wrist supports may be used in front of keyboards and mouse to reduce the risk of repetitive wrist strain.
Some workplaces now even provide standing desks to reduce the constant pressure on the back and strengthen the muscles to get used to standing for long periods. You may want to use both these and sitting desks to provide a choice for team members; they can also switch between.
You should also consider placement of buttons or switches that could set off a dangerous series of events if accidentally knocked, especially in industries such as engineering. Signals and controls should also be made very clear to all employees, e.g. green means safe to operate.
Most injuries in the workplace are caused by repetitive movement, bad posture or falls, so it’s best to avoid any employee claims by providing them with a setup specifically for them. Occupational hygiene experts can help with this by assessing any potential hazards and analyzing repetitive movements, helping you to reduce workplace risk.
2. Exposure to hazardous materials
Are there any materials or substances your employees may come into contact with that could cause health hazards, such as asbestos, dust, fibres, fumes and gases? You definitely need to make sure you have the correct insurance policies in place to protect yourself from any claims.
Damage can be caused in a variety of ways, ranging from ingestion and skin contact through to breathing fumes in and punctures to the skin. This can result in burns, eye damage, contact dermatitis and even certain cancers.
Industries that are at significantly higher risk of exposure include hair and beauty, cleaning services, engineering, construction and healthcare. Employing an expert to help you assess and mitigate these risks can reduce the chance of any claims.
3. Psychological safety
Stress is the number one cause of employee sickness. These sick days cost the business time and money, so the more you can avoid this, the better. Are your processes all in place? Can the business operate well when employees are on holiday?
Also, have you created an environment in which your team feels comfortable speaking up with ideas, questions or concerns? Not only will this reduce workplace anxiety, you will foster a growth environment in which your team can flourish.
4. The physical environment
Is there a lot of noise in the environment, e.g. constant loud noise from speakers for concert security staff or loud engineering machines that could potentially cause long-term hearing damage? Make sure adequate safety equipment is in place to avoid this.
The temperature of the environment can also have an effect on your employees. In Australia, the general code of practice states that most employees can work comfortably at temperatures between 20-26 degrees celsius.
It’s important to be able to recognise the physical signs of heat-induced illness, such as fatigue, excessive sweating, headaches, nausea, dizziness, vomiting and in some instances, fainting. If you are unable to put specific measures in place to reduce heat due to the nature of the work, it is vital that you and your employees can recognise the signs of illness. Allow frequent breaks out of the heat and avoid scheduling physical work during the hottest times of day.
5. Biological agents
Biological agents include hazards such as fungi, bacteria and viruses. These can naturally occur in hot environments as bacteria thrives in these conditions, or places where flooding has occurred.
Healthcare and science is a particularly rife industry for these risks as doctors, nurses and researchers will naturally constantly be in contact with patients suffering with ailments caused by these agents. This is why adequate PPE and constant cleaning is vital.
There are some industries where there are unexpected risks that do still need to be covered. For example, in the agricultural industry, farmers are at risk of any animal diseases that can transfer to humans, and laundry workers could find themselves accidentally pricked by a needle whilst washing clothing.
6. An appropriate dress code
Having an appropriate dress code in place is another way you can minimize risk to your employees, as well as your customers. For example, in the food production industry it is vital for staff to take precautions and wear protective gear, e.g. hair nets, rubber gloves, face masks etc. This is to prevent any bacteria or viruses getting into your customer’s food, as well as any hair that can lead to claims. It also protects your employees from any potential diseases whilst in the workplace, especially when dealing with food such as raw meat.
You may also want to consider a jewellery ban. It can easily get caught in machinery or fall into food, leaving the door wide open for claims. Long hair or head scarfs should also be tucked away to avoid getting caught.
If you are planning on making changes to your current dress code, it’s wise to consult your employees and trade unions over this to make sure it is accepted. Although you ultimately have the final say, you want to avoid any claims of an unfair dress code.