When was the last time you collided with somebody going through a door, or bumped or tripped over something at work? Quite recently, I imagine. It happens all the time. And it’s just one of the hazards those of us who go out to work every day. Usually, these bumps and scrapes are not serious but it’s a fact that well over 3.5 million people end up in hospital emergency departments each year as a result of occupational injuries.
Mostly, and rightly, we count on employers to provide us with safe workplaces, to conform to health and safety legislation and to provide facilities for emergency treatment, from first aid kits to resuscitators. But, you know, there’s also a lot that we, as individuals, can do to protect ourselves from on-the-job hazards and to help others in emergency.
I’m not just talking about exercising caution when opening and shutting doors or keeping your eyes peeled for obstacles – though these are important – but also making ourselves more broadly aware of company safety rules and knowing how to respond to emergencies.
Your employer might provide written safety guidelines, which you should always make time to read, and there could be qualified first-aiders nearby you should get to know. You should also know where first aid supplies and extinguishers are stored and the layout of emergency escape routes.
Here are a few more guidelines for you to consider, to make your working life safer:
• Wear appropriate clothing for the job – for instance, no loose items near machinery, and using eye protection, hard-hats, safety masks and reinforced shoes. Never cut corners or think you can make do with anything less than regulations or commonsense stipulate.
• Monitor your workplace temperature and general environment. If it’s too hot or too cold, too stuffy or there are unfamiliar odors, alert your supervisor or senior worker.
• Use the right tools for the job. And by that I mean everything from a letter opener and staple remover to electrical appliances. If you don’t know how to use it properly, then ask. And always store sharp items, like scissors, when not in use.
• Don’t leave objects where other people (or you!) might collide with them. And if you spot an obvious hazard, move it if it’s permissible and appropriate, or try to make others aware of it (perhaps by using a warning cone or a simple sign).
• If you have allergies (e.g. latex) or phobias (e.g. confined space), ensure your employer and your colleagues know.
Finally, if you are injured or feel unwell, especially if you’re dizzy or suffering severe head or chest pains, tell someone immediately. Time is of the essence if something seriously threatens – like a stroke or heart attack. There are no points for keeping your mouth shut and being a hero.
You’ll find bags more useful information on workplace safety at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website – www.cdc.gov/workplace. Or maybe you could even think about becoming a first aider yourself – your local Red Cross chapter can tell you how.
In an ideal world, your workplace should be a source of fulfillment end even, dare I say it, fun. But at the very least, it should be the place from which you arrive home safely every day.