The use of good quality safety equipment is an important first step. But the very best way to make sure a workplace is as safe as can be is through knowledge and practical experience.
A report published after XX World Congress on Safety and Health at Work, which was held in Frankfurt, Germany in 2014, states that globally over 2.3 million people die each year from occupational accidents and work related diseases.
According to the same report, a further 268 million non-fatal workplace accidents result in an average of three lost workdays per casualty as well as 160 million new cases of work-related illness each year. These figures are astounding, yet they could be significantly reduced if employers took more preventative measures.
The report says the need for prevention is both obvious and urgent!
According to Dr Maria Neira, Director of Public Health and Environment at the World Health Organisation, “The wealth of business depends on the health of workers.” In other words, it is false economy to cut corners when it comes to the health and safety of an employee. There are many other factors that contribute to the level of a person’s performance at work besides salary. Research indicates that in order to be fully productive, employees need to feel valued, appreciated, safe, cared for and respected.
Dr Robert Long, an expert in Social Psychology, Principal and Trainer at Human Dimensions, suggests that managers and business owners should work towards “humanising” their organisations. The first step is to individualise employees by opening a dialogue about their safety concerns and involving them in decision-making processes, new products and new procedures. It is also useful for managers and business owners to spend time on the floor, observing or ideally performing tasks that employees are expected to perform so that they can understand the risks to health and safety that employees are facing. Together employers can make a plan that increases employee’s safety, security and well being. The result after implementation will be increased productivity and increased profitability.
Why is talk between management and employees so important? Let’s take hard hats and earmuffs as an example. The use of both items is compulsory to several different professions.
In Australia, hard hats and earmuffs must be certified to Australian Standards, but this should not be the only requirement. Employees will waste a lot of time re-arranging hard hats and earmuffs that don’t fit properly and this will result in loss of productivity. Non-vented hard hats are cheaper than vented hard hats, but they don’t allow air circulation, which will increase the chances of sweat. Employees sweating too much will loose time wiping their faces, drinking more water and working slower as they will be too hot.
The same goes for several other PPE items. Talking to the people who use these items and trying to find out the most comfortable ones will save a lot of time in the future.
The person responsible for the purchase of safety equipment should spend time talking to the employees who will wear or use the equipment.The use of good quality safety equipment is an important first step. However, while having the correct equipment is very important, the very best way to make sure a workplace is as safe as can be for employees is to make sure they feel as comfortable as possible and they wear it as often as required.
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* XX World Congress on Safety and Health at Work 2014: Global Forum for Prevention
Results found at the International Labour Organization' website:
* Healthy workplaces - a mode for action by the World Health Organization
* "Safety Leadership" article by Dr. Robert Long