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January 23, 2014

What can employers do to prevent accidents at work?

By : Dave Collins

Millions of working days are lost each year to work-related injuries and illnesses, so it’s incumbent upon employers to do their bit to ensure that their workplace is a safe one. Remember, a workforce which is regularly put at risk is likely to be a demoralised one – and therefore a less productive one. It’s in the mutual interest of employers and employees to prevent accidents in the workplace wherever possible. Of course, accidents can still happen no matter how vigilant employers are. Nevertheless, by taking certain steps, employers can significantly reduce these risks.

Unfortunately, there are employers which take a somewhat blasé attitude towards health and safety. Some see health and safety regulation as an onerous burden – forgetting why it’s there in the first place. The sheer number of accidents which still occur in spite of the various safeguards which are already in place merely underlines why they are necessary. Still, it’s not hard to see why businesses which have a low rate of workplace accidents and work-related illnesses might be sceptical. However, accidents can happen across just about every sector of the economy – from manufacturing to retail – and complacency has to be avoided at all costs.
Employers must ensure that they have a sufficiently robust health and safety framework in place. Preventative measures must be introduced, and there should also be a plan for monitoring, controlling, implementing and reviewing them on a regular basis. It isn’t good enough to introduce preventative measures and then forget about them – the way in which we work evolves quickly over time, and measures which may be appropriate to begin with may not be up to the job within a matter of years.
Hazards posing a potential risk to wellbeing must be clearly identified, and risks should be assessed. Employers which employ more than five workers are obliged to record the findings of their risk assessment process. You should take care to ensure that your risk assessment isn’t overcomplicated – it’s a tool that has to be put into practice, so make sure that you keep it simple. Furthermore, you should take steps to ensure that your risk control measures are practical and adequate for their purpose. As an employer, you are obliged to minimise employees’ exposure to potential hazards. Protective equipment should only be deployed as a last resort.
Most importantly, employers need to remember that upholding safety standards in the workplace is a team effort. Workers should therefore be encouraged to report any potential hazards so that they can be dealt with. All too often, there’s a culture of secrecy where employees are effectively told to just get on with their work and leave it to others to worry about health and safety. As they are the ones being exposed to these potential risks day in day out, it makes sense to engage with them and encourage a generally open atmosphere with regard to health and safety matters. These measures should help to promote greater safety around the workplace and therefore reduce the incidence of accidents and work-related illnesses.


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