Every single day you put yourself into situations where you are at risk. You don’t think about it at the time, because it usually revolves around crossing roads and walking past open business sites. Those situations are risky ones that you deal with every day and yet still feel safe while you do it. For eight hours or more a day, you sit in the same office or work on the same site as a team of colleagues. Those people that you work with every day have the power to be able to save your life, should the need arise. There are many things we take for granted, and the team we work with is one of the biggest. Your safety on the job at work, particularly if you are working in manufacturing or in a high-pressure environment, is paramount.
Without knowing, it’s your colleagues you rely on for your continued safety at work. In saying that, it’s common to have at least one person that you work with who practices unsafe work techniques. This doesn’t always mean that they are reckless or particularly want to break the safety rules. There’s every chance that your colleague used to work for a company who didn’t push the safety regulations that could keep them alive, so they never thought about what they are doing as unsafe. What’s important here is that you are the person who steps up and keeps them safe, while explaining that what they are doing is unsafe. Workplace safety is responsibility of everyone involved on the floor. Colleagues depend on each other to stay safe, to watch for hazards and warn of hazards if they arise. If you are working with someone who is repeatedly unsafe in their practices, they will push your risk of harm right up, and that just won’t do.
It’s a problem to be around people who can put you in danger. If you work for an employer who won’t install the correct safety swing gates, for example, you are being put into danger of falling whenever you are working in the factory on site. The first step to helping your employers and your colleagues to improve workplace safety is to discuss is. Open communication is so important to staying safe and sometimes, people just don’t realise when things are going wrong. Employers who have done things the same way for years may need a re-education on new safety practices. While that isn’t overly your responsibility, it is up to you to mention something if you find it jeopardises your ability to work in a less risky environment. If your employers and colleagues do not realise the impact that their behaviour has on the entire office, they may be apologetic and make the right behavioural adjustments once they know. Extra training, offering to guide them on the safest way to do certain things and generally doing better at work are all things that need to happen to increase workplace safety.
It’s an uncomfortable conversation to have when you believe someone you work with is being unsafe. It’s not easy to approach someone you work with and tell them that something is wrong. However, if an uncomfortable conversation is going to be the step you need to take to save a life, then it’s something you must do for your own conscience. You cannot be passive about workplace safety, but you can have a conversation about doing things differently without coming over as aggressive. If your colleague doesn’t believe that they are acting inappropriately or unsafely at work, then they can become defensive, which can end in an argument. Approach with caution when you are speaking to a peer at work. If you’ve tried before and nothing has changed, approaching management may be your only option. Workplace safety can result in a loss of life if regulations are not enforced correctly. When you engage in a discussion about inappropriate behaviour, remain as calm as possible.
You may get lucky! If you’ve pointed out unsafe behaviour that hasn’t been noticed, it could immediately change and then your risk of working with your colleague goes right down. A chat may not guarantee a change in the way they approach their job, but it’s a start. When you’re at work, you need to have ongoing training in health and safety to be able to stay up to date with safety regulations. It is not just the job of management to keep you all safe in the main working environment. If you or your colleagues are working at a height, it makes sense to double check safety harnesses and swing gates and have another set of eyes on dangerous working at all times to ensure your protection. Everyone in the working environment will have something different to offer at work, depending on their experience. You should always feel comfortable pointing out risks to your employer if you spot any, as it doesn’t mean you are trying to do their job, just that you are being vigilant about your job. Getting involved in workplace safety plans is a smart idea for all employees, so that you are aware of what is expected of you in the workplace.
If you have a leadership role at work, you will need First Aid training in CPR and general medical care so that you can be on point for accidents at work. While the ongoing training mentioned should keep you safe, accidents sometimes will happen and you should be aware of them. All new employees should be rigorously taught what not to do at work and all guidelines on machinery should be followed closely. Your colleagues are people you spend time with for most of your working week and keeping each other safe is a given to ensure that no one is in danger where possible. Being aware of your actions and the actions of others can make a huge difference, and if you can be the person who makes that difference, you won’t regret it.