Manchester, England. 27 April 2023 – Tomorrow is World Day for Safety and Health at Work. Originally, the day was started by the trade union to raise awareness for workplace accidents, illness, and death. Now it’s recognised as a day to stress the importance of prevention when it comes to workplace safety.
Alan Price, CEO at BrightHR, has put together the top three most common health & safety risks in the workplace and tips for employers on how to manage them.
Risk 1: Protecting new and expectant mothers from harm to them or their unborn child
“If your employee is pregnant, breastfeeding, or has been pregnant within the last 6 months, you need to take important steps to guarantee their safety. By law, you must evaluate the risks to pregnant employees and carry out an individual risk assessment to cover your worker’s specific needs.
“To start, have an open conversation with your employee about any concerns they have about their working conditions. Assess how this will impact their physical wellbeing during pregnancy, as well as the wellbeing and safety of their unborn child.
“When you are notified that an employee is pregnant, you should carry out a risk assessment, to include the following:
• Identify any and all hazards. These could be physical, biological, or even mental and social. For instance, high work demands, long hours or, if working remotely, isolation and loneliness. Pregnant women should not do any heavy lifting, sit down for long periods of time, or use a workstation that is bad for their posture. • Evaluate the risks and take actions to minimise the risk to pregnant workers. For instance, restrict access to hazardous areas at work, assess the ergonomics of their workstation to ensure they’re comfortable, and encourage regular breaks. • Ensure pregnant staff are not required to work with dangerous substances or at height. • Assess whether they work in a role with a heightened risk of violence, for example security work, or as a lone worker at a petrol station.
“Once you’ve taken these steps you must record your findings and share them with the employee. Then make any necessary adjustments such as changes to working environments, shift patterns, or finding suitable alternative work.”
Risk 2: Slips trips and falls, protecting staff from minor or serious injury
“Slips, trips, and falls all count as workplace accidents. If your employee falls over, slips, or hurts themselves at work it’s vital you record it straight away. Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, all employers have a duty of care to assess risks (including slips and trips) to prevent workplace accidents.
“But even when you take all the necessary precautions, employees can still hurt themselves. Most often accidents are caused by tiredness, distraction, and workplace clutter! The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations of 1992 require all floors to be suitable, in a good condition and free from obstruction.
“To prevent accidents and keep staff safe, employers need to identify any potential hazards that could cause a serious fall, trip, or slip. Having software that allows you to record hazards and identify risk can greatly reduce accidents and give an accurate record to help avoid the risk of any disputes or claims.”
Risk 3: Fire safety—preventing staff endangerment, property damage, or property closure
“Did you know the origins of the term “firing” actually came from setting the desks or tools of departing employees on fire? This sounds like a huge health & safety risk but then again it was a couple of hundred years ago…
“Hopefully, you’ll never have to witness or experience that kind of fire in your workplace. But if you do, having a working fire alarm is the first point of consideration to alert employees as quickly as possible and save lives.
“It’s a legal requirement that all employers make sure premises are equipped with the right fire detectors and alarms. And all fire alarms in commercial premises are tested weekly to check they're in working order. If you fail to do so—and your business is deemed a serious fire risk by the fire and rescue authorities—you could face fines from upwards of £5,000 to 2 years in prison.
“The fire department will give you relevant warnings and notices, the most serious being a prohibition notice, restricting access to your building. But you can stop it from ever getting to this stage by making sure your business complies with the latest fire safety legislation.
“As an employer it is your legal duty to do everything in your power to prevent employees from getting hurt at work. Not only to protect staff from injury but also to avoid penalties, failed inspections, and damage to your company’s reputation.
“Remember, follow the correct procedures, conduct proper risk assessments, and keep accurate records. Nobody wants things to go wrong, but if an accident happens and you haven’t done everything possible to prevent it, then you could be liable. If in doubt, seek advice to ensure safety and compliance.”