Statistics show that the UK has among the safest workplace in Europe, thanks to strict health and safety regulations and increased awareness of their importance. However, not every workplace is as committed to the wellbeing of its employees as it should be, and some industries are inherently more hazardous than others, so workplace accidents are not uncommon. One in ten UK workers are reported to have suffered a recent accident at work, and 18-24 year olds are more likely to suffer a workplace injury than their older colleagues. Here, the team at LegalExpert.co.uk provide a breakdown of what you need to know to stay safe when embarking on a placement, internship or work experience.
Some risks are quite specific to the workplace and understood to be a regular part of the job, and in these cases there are measures that can be taken to make work as safe as possible. Workplace hazards tend to be sorted into six categories:
Organisational - caused by poor workplace practices, i.e. fatigue, harassment
Chemical - caused by exposure to chemical solids, liquids or gases, i.e. burns, fumes
Physical - caused by exposure to harsh conditions, i.e. radiation, extreme temperature
Biological - caused by exposure to organic matter, i.e. bodily fluids, mold or fungi
Ergonomic - caused by unsuitable equipment/furniture, i.e. uncomfortable desks
Safety - caused by unsafe working conditions, i.e. spills, trips, work at height
Many risks can be avoided through proactivity. Tasks that present risk should always be undertaken with proper protective equipment and in adherence to all safety regulations.
What to Expect
Most workplaces will have procedures in place to train employees in health and safety, and this should be offered to new recruits sooner rather than later. Workers definitely shouldn’t be given any physical tasks before they have received training in how to do so safely.
If you don’t feel equipped to carry out a task in a safe way, tell your supervisor, and don’t perform the job until you have been given adequate training. It is absolutely your right to prioritise your personal safety in such situations. If your workplace does not take action to improve safety measures, or makes you feel in immediate danger, make contact with your trade union or with the Health and Safety Executive straight away.
Taking good care of yourself can play an important role in staying safe at work. Fatigue is a contributing factor in a surprising number of injuries, both in and out of the workplace, so taking steps to ensure you are well and ready for a day of work is essential. Try to get eight hours of sleep a night, eat a nutritious breakfast before you go to work, and stay hydrated throughout the day. Giving your body what it needs to make you alert, on top of your game and prepared for the workplace is very important.
If You Have an Accident
In the event of an accident in the workplace, your manager should be immediately informed, and details of the incident recorded in the company’s accident book. If this doesn’t get done, write down all the details yourself, make a copy of the document and send it to your manager - make sure to keep your own copy safe. If required, seek medical attention, and inform the practitioner of the circumstances surrounding your injury.
Should your injury be severe enough to prevent you from working, you are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, and may well be eligible for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. You may also decide to pursue a claim for compensation from your employer if your accident could have been prevented, in which case, legal advice should be sought.
Workplace injury is more preventable now than ever thanks to increased awareness, employee rights and legal requirements, but should you have an accident at work, it is your employer’s responsibility to provide you the support you require and take steps to make the workplace safer.
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