According to the Labour Force Survey, there were 693,000 working people who got injured at work in 2019/20 and 1.6 million people who were suffering from a work-related illness. At the same time, there were 111 workers who died while carrying out their jobs.
Workplaces can’t be made completely risk-free. But there are laws in place, like the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, that require employers to make the workplace as safe as possible. This includes providing a well-maintained working environment, appropriate training, and effective personal protective equipment (PPE) for the job.
Your employer’s responsibility to protect your safety at work is known as a ‘duty of care’. If your employer fails in this duty and you get injured at work, you’re entitled by law to seek compensation.
This system of regulation and compensation goes a long way towards reducing workplace injuries, but it isn’t enough on its own to keep you safe at work. As an employee, you have as much responsibility as your employer in making the workplace as safe as possible.
This guide will explore some of the things you can do to help reduce your risk of accidents and injuries at work.
Appreciate the risks in your workplace
Every workplace has its own set of risks. Before starting a new role, you should attend any induction sessions you’re offered to find out what these risks are and follow the health and safety procedures designed to minimise them.
This is important for two reasons.
Firstly, having an appreciation of the potential risks in your workplace and following the health and safety procedures will help reduce your risk of getting injured in an accident.
Secondly, following health and safety procedures will help you if you get injured at work and want to make a personal injury claim.
For a personal injury claim to be successful, you need to show that the accident that caused your injuries wasn’t your fault. If you can show that you followed the appropriate health and safety procedures, you’re more likely to prove that your accident was caused by someone else.
Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)
You may be required to wear a type of PPE at work to keep you safe from certain injuries. There are many different types of PPE and what you need to wear depends on your work environment.
Some work environments where you might need to wear PPE include:
- Working with hazardous chemicals – Safety goggles and mask, gloves, and closed boots to protect you from accidently inhaling or spilling the chemicals.
- Construction – Steel toe capped boots to protect you from heavy falling objects.
- Working in high noise – Ear plugs or ear defenders to protect you from hearing damage.
- Working with asbestos – Respirator to prevent you from inhaling asbestos and special clothing that repels asbestos fibres.
Your employer is responsible for providing you with any PPE you need to do your work safely. But if any of your PPE gets lost or becomes obviously defective, you need to tell your employer so they can replace it for you.
Always wearing the appropriate PPE for your work is essential – it helps to keep you safe.
Furthermore, wearing the appropriate PPE for your tasks will help you if you get injured at work and want to make a personal injury claim.
Your claim is more likely to be successful if you can show that you took appropriate precautions against the risk of injury.
For instance, if you injured your eye while working with hazardous chemicals, you can prove in a personal injury claim that you took the appropriate safety precautions by wearing safety goggles.
Take regular breaks
When you’re tired, it becomes more difficult to focus on your work. This means that you’re more likely to make a mistake that could cause someone to get injured.
Taking regular breaks will help to keep you focused on what you’re doing and make you less likely to cause an accident.
You’re legally entitled to three types of breaks:
- Work break – 20 minutes of uninterrupted break during the working day for tea or lunch.
- Daily rest – 11 hours of rest between working days.
- Weekly rest – 24 hours without work each week and 48 hours without work each fortnight.
Taking regular breaks is your responsibility. Appreciate when you’re feeling tired and try not to push yourself.
If your employer refuses to let you take the breaks you’re entitled to and you get injured, you have the right to make a personal injury claim against them.
Deal with hazards before they can cause accidents
You should be on the lookout for potential hazards around the workplace. If you notice something that doesn’t look right, you should deal with it as soon as possible before it can cause an accident.
In many cases, it will be the responsibility of you and your colleagues to deal with the problem appropriately.
If you work in hospitality, for instance, you should clean up spilled food or drink immediately before it could cause a customer to slip over.
Similarly, as a supermarket worker, you should remove any items that have fallen into the aisles that a shopper could trip up on.
However, in some industries there may be hazards that require a specialist to deal with, like if you’re working with toxic chemicals. In this case, you should notify your supervisor to find out the appropriate safety procedure before taking any action yourself.
Minimise your stress
Stress at work is sometimes overlooked as a potential workplace hazard. But stress can have serious consequences for your safety and that of your co-workers if not dealt with.
When you’re stressed, you may be distracted thinking about the things that worry you rather than focusing on the task at hand. Being distracted like this can cause mistakes and lead to accidents.
In some work situations, such as if you’re working at height or working with heavy equipment, mistakes caused by stress can have tragic consequences for you and for others.
Unfortunately, stress isn’t something that usually goes away on its own. Over time, stress can make it difficult to sleep, and you may use alcohol or drugs to try to relax. This can leave you feeling more stressed and increase your risk of causing an accident even further.
There are many reasons why you might be feeling stressed at work. Maybe you’re struggling to keep up with the demands of your job. Or maybe there are people in the workplace who upset you.
Whatever the cause of your stress, it’s important that you tell someone how you’re feeling before it gets any worse.
Ideally, you should speak to your manager or HR department about how you feel. But if this isn’t possible, you can contact Samaritans for confidential emotional support.
If you have been injured in a workplace accident that wasn’t your fault, you can find solicitors on The Law Superstore with our quick quote form.