If your employees are your company’s greatest asset, why wouldn’t you want to protect them by creating a safe working environment?
Your employees are your greatest asset and should be treated with the same importance as cash flow and revenue. Without them, your business wouldn’t function. So it’s only right to create a working environment that is safe and ergonomically designed in order to avoid any unnecessary workplace injuries – not to mention the spiralling costs that would inevitably follow.
Workplace injuries come in several forms:
Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) – The straining of certain body parts and limbs can occur when employees repeat the same movement over and over again throughout their working day. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a widely known injury along with symptoms ranging from fatigue, swelling and tenderness to loss of movement and tingling sensations.
Faulty equipment – Damaged, broken and defective equipment can lead to an array of injuries including sprains, falls, broken bones, paralysis and in some cases even death.
Slips and falls – Slipping and falling can occur on many surfaces including the floor, on machinery or scaffolding. It may be due to a spillage, items that were not returned to their original position, or employees defying responsibility such as not cleaning up a spillage, refusing to wear safety equipment or failing to regularly clean a surface.
Business owner responsibilities to staff
No employer is immune from Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation. Although there are differently named laws across the states and territories (including the Workplace Health and Safety Act or the Occupational Health and Safety Act), they all share the same objective: business owners are required to create safe working environments.
As outlined on the federal government’s website, business owners have a legally binding duty to uphold a workplace by providing:
Safe machinery and materials;
Safe systems of work;
Information, instruction, training and supervision; and
A suitable working environment with appropriate facilities.
Tips for creating a safe working environment
1. Incorporate training
Train new employees as soon as they’re hired. Adequate training means ensuring everyone knows how to complete a job and use necessary equipment correctly, which reduces their chances of on-the-job injury. It’s also important to continue training all staff to ensure they’re kept up to date with new equipment or new procedures that may have changed.
2. Implement ergonomics
IErgonomics is a scientific process where workplaces, products and systems are designed and arranged to suit the people who use them. Implementing ergonomics in the workplace is therefore one of the most effective ways to prevent and reduce injuries in office environments. It’s worth replacing standard office equipment with ergonomic substitutions when it comes to chairs, desks, keyboards and mice to promote correct posture.
Office chairs – Encourage staff to push their hips as far back as they can when sitting. The seat height should be level with the person’s knees, allowing their feet to remain flat on the ground. Ensure the upper and lower back is supported by adjusting the back of the chair to a 100 or 110 degree reclined angle. Position armrests to promote relaxed shoulders.
Keyboards – Staff should place a keyboard directly in front of them and pull themselves towards it. It should be positioned at a height that promotes relaxed shoulders. The tilting height will differ according to sitting position, however staff can use wrist rests to maintain neutral posture and support their wrists.
Equipment – Computer screens should be positioned at arm’s length away from an employee and two to three degrees above seated eye level. Place telephones within easy reach and promote using headphones to eliminate handset cradling. Other items such as in-line document stands should also be in close proximity and positioned adjacent to the screen.
Rest periods – Encourage staff to take short one-minute breaks every 30 minutes to stretch their legs and rest their eyes. This reduces eye fatigue, promotes circulation and increases productivity. It’s also a good idea for staff to avoid taking lunch breaks at their computer.
3. Offer protective equipment
Whether it’s goggles or a face shield in industrial settings, harnesses when working at height or specialised gloves where hazardous chemicals are being used, OH&S law stipulates that you give your employees access to mandatory safety equipment to protect them from eye, lung and skin injuries when working in hazardous workplace.
4. Routine inspections
OH&S regulations require that business owners carry out routine inspections on machinery, electrical cables and computers, as faulty equipment is a major cause of many workplace accidents that can even lead to death.
5. Monitor medical needs
OH&S regulations demand that business owners monitor their workers' health. In certain industries, this may mean providing hearing tests to workers who are exposed to high noise levels. You must also keep staff emergency contact details on hand and first aid records. Delegate senior staff members as OH&S representatives who oversee workers and manage matters that directly affect their health, welfare and safety.
The Happiness Institute is a positive psychology practice with the simple aim of making as many people happy as possible. Going into organisations and running workshops and providing executive coaching, Dr Timothy Sharp enhances the morale, engagement and the retention of staff.