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Health and Safety in The Workplace


A manager inspecting workplace safety procedures

The workplace can be a dangerous place and is one of the most common places for accidents to happen. There is much that can be done to prevent any accidents from happening in the first place. Awareness and knowledge are often the best way to be able to avoid workplace related accidents from occurring. As an employer it is your responsibility to make the workplace as safe as possible for your workforce. Our selection of online health and safety courses can assist you in making your workplace as safe as possible.

As well as the various legal requirements a business has to protect its employees and the public, it is in the best interests of a business to keep its workforce healthy. Accidents and illness caused by inadequate or non-existent health and safety procedures/policies can result in staff having to take time off work, or even, if they can make it into work, can lead to lower happiness and motivation. In both cases, productivity will be greatly reduced, which will have an indirect effect on the financial performance of the company. Poor health and safety practices can also have a more direct impact on the company's figures. The failure to provide sufficient protective equipment, for example, allows an employee to sue the business for compensation as a result of any accident or illness which could have reasonably been prevented, and also includes the possibility of a fine being imposed by the court. Also, workers who are off work for a long time or who leave will need to be replaced, which can result in costly recruitment costs as well as the dip in output until that worker or workers are replaced.

What does health and safety in the workplace entail?

Health and safety provisions and practices will vary greatly depending on the industry of the firm, as the needs of workers in some industries, such as miners, will vary to workers in other environments such as office workers. However, they share the common theme that the intention is to provide a working environment which protects the worker from injury and illness caused by the equipment they use, the products they handle, and the environment in which they work.

Examples of creating a safe and healthy working environment:

  • Providing and maintaining clothing and equipment necessary from protecting the worker from harm
  • Providing necessary remedies in case of an accident (e.g. fire extinguishers, eye wash, bandages etc.)
  • Ensuring adequate washing facilities
  • Regular and sufficient cleaning of workspace
  • Providing sufficient break and rest periods
  • Regular tests and check-ups for staff (e.g. eye tests for workers who spend a lot of time staring at computer screens (Visual Display Units))
  • Frequent and adequate risk assessments

Hazards in the Workplace

The first way to prevent accidents from occurring is to recognise any potential hazards. There are four main areas of possible hazards that with a little knowledge can be managed in such a way that helps to avoid accidents from occurring. These four hazardous areas that need attention are:

  • Chemical hazards
  • Biological hazards
  • Ergonomic hazards
  • Physical hazards

With the right knowledge and training these hazardous areas can be recognised and accidents can be prevented. Our courses are designed to help you recognise and prevent accidents in these areas.

Chemical Hazards

Chemical hazards are a group of hazard that is related to any kind of chemicals. These may not be related to specialised companies as cleaning products for example contain chemicals. Chemical accidents can occur from spills or storage issues. Chemical hazards in the workplace include:

  • Cleaning products
  • Gases
  • Fumes
  • Gasoline
  • Solvents

Chemical hazards can be liquid or gas by nature and require thorough training to store and use safely.

Biological Hazards

Biological hazards are dangers that come from working with natural elements. Working with livestock, bacteria in a laboratory or humans all are workplaces with common biological hazards. Biological hazards include:

  • Bodily fluid such as blood or semen
  • Bacteria and viruses
  • Disease and infection
  • Animal and bird droppings or bites

Anything that stems from a natural element can be classed as a biological hazard.

Ergonomic Hazards

Ergonomic hazards are far harder to determine than other types of hazards. These hazards are all to do with things such as:

  • Lighting issues
  • Posture
  • Lifting
  • Repetitive movements

Anything that is associated with the health and wellbeing of a worker in terms of their comfort in doing the job and being present at their workstation (desk, assembly line etc) can be classed as a potential ergonomic hazard.

Physical Hazards

Physical hazards are often the hazards that cause the most accidents in the work place. These dangers include:

  • Tripping hazards
  • Damaged electrical cords
  • Ladders poorly placed
  • Machinery damaged or unguarded
  • Loud noises
  • Vibrations

Most physical hazards can be avoided by accurate knowledge and awareness of the possible consequences. They are normally factors which have simple solutions and preventative measures, but are frequently overlooked and can result in serious injuries.

Ensuring That Your Workplace Can Stay Safe

For any business looking to conduct itself in a fair and honest manner, there has to be a lot of hard work and commitment put into place along the way, with health and safety being no different. It's simply not enough for a business to expect self policing on the issue; the entire premises should be as safe and secure as it possibly can be.

To get to this point, you need to be able to follow some specific ideas along the way. The byproduct of having a nice, safe workplace tends to be the fact that workplace morale and productivity will improve. When morale is high and people feel safe and comfortable, they tend to work better. If you want to try and improve the level of safety and quality within the workplace, then you should consider the following:

1) Should you really just rely on your own risk assessments and opinions? Engaging the services of an external health and safety training provider who can come into your premises will often discover potential hazards which you did not even consider or know about.

2) What are the most potentially dangerous parts of your premises? You should have these taken care of first and foremost, as they have the highest risk of causing serious injury, ill health or death.

3) Legally, protective equipment is not something that your staff need to provide, so ensure they have everything that they need made available to them as soon as you possibly can.

4) Make sure that you have some members of staff who are fully trained in first-aid. It always pays to have people on-site who can help out in cases of accidents. Whilst every member of staff should be expected to learn these skills, having experience can really help you out.

5) Consider the way that your business works and how it will be affected by the day-to-day workings around your business; it needs to be managed in the right way, and the most effective way to do this is to take an appraisal of the situation from start to finish. Look at every single procedure you manage for maximum effect.

Workspace and Working Area

The area where workers are going about their duties can have a great effect on their health and safety or, more specifically, the chances of an accident happening or their health adversely affected. Most of the issues will involve a workspace which is too small.

One of the main problems of a workspace which is too small will be the insufficient amount of space in which to move around. Workers may be cramped for room and sat awkwardly, which could not only cause stress levels to rise if they get flustered at having no space to work properly, but can also involve manual handling issues if the workspace is inadequate and does not allow sufficient freedom of movement or requires the employee to sit or stand in an awkward way whilst they work.

Just as employees need freedom of movement at their own workstation, they also need enough space to easily be able to move past other workstations and pieces of equipment. This is especially true if their place of work includes dangerous machinery such as cutting apparatus, where if they were to accidentally knock into a person's arm or workbench they could cause that person to suffer a serious injury. There is also an increased chance of inadvertently coming into contact with buttons and switches if the room is small and people have to squeeze past everything to move around.

A crowded room will have numerous obstructions which will hinder any escape in the event of an emergency evacuation such as an outbreak of fire or the release of a hazardous chemical substance. Having workers needing to overcome these obstacles and competing with each other to get to the exit will increase the time taken to get outside and could be the difference between life and death.

A small room is also likely to get hot, particularly in the summer months when the temperature outside is high. Not only can this cause discomfort for workers, and may even breach certain health and safety legislation if conditions get too hot, but may also cause equipment and machinery to overheat. At worst, it will simply cease to function, but there is also a risk of fire or explosion if it malfunctions. Small workplaces with many machines crammed into it may also not have sufficient power sockets to plug them all into, which again could cause a fire to start if the sockets are overloaded with multi-socket adapters.

Should Some Businesses Take Health and Safety More Seriously Than Others?

Businesses come in all different sizes and vary even more widely in the activities that they are engaged in. The sheer number of different industries which exist means that there is a tremendous amount of variety in terms of the processes which take place and the most prevalent dangers that are present and could put the safety of workers in jeopardy.

Even though it is the duty and responsibility of managers of any place of work to make sure that all reasonable precautions have been made to prevent illness or injury to people, the nature of certain industries will make some places of work inherently more dangerous than others.

As an example, an office will still contain numerous hazards such as:

  • The risk of fires and electrocution
  • Potential injuries from the manual handling of objects/items
  • Slips, trips and falls including falling from height off small stepladders used to reach top shelves
  • Hazardous substances in the form of printer toner and cleaning products

This means that office safety is still an important consideration and needs addressing, but an office will not normally be as dangerous a place to work as somewhere like a foundry which will also contain many of the risks mentioned above, but these same risks will usually cause much more damage to health should they take place. For instance, the hazardous substances found in most offices are likely to cause little more than mild irritation were they to come into contact with a person's skin, but in other workplaces the hazardous substances used for the processes could cause severe burns. Similarly, most objects found in an office are relatively small and light and may still be painful if they were to fall on somebody but would hopefully not cause too much damage to their body. But in a foundry or similar heavy works, items are extremely heavy and can cause instant death or severe crush injuries were there to be an accident when moving work-in-progress or a finished item from one place to another.

So should these businesses take health and safety more seriously than others? Generally speaking, the answer is no. Managers of all businesses, no matter what the perceived level of risk, should do all that is reasonably practical to prevent harm coming to their employees, the environment or members of the public who may be affected by the activities of the company. Rather than "taking health and safety more seriously", a more apt view would be that managers of businesses engaged in higher risk activities need to ensure that the safety measures in place are robust and comprehensive enough to cope with the potential dangers which exist.

The Importance of Health and Safety Training in the Workplace

High quality health and safety training is not only of the utmost importance to prevent accidents from occurring in the workplace but is actually a statutory legal requirement in the UK. You have an obligation to provide training for your staff to equip them with the knowledge and skills required to keep them safe while at work. Here are some of the most common risks your employees need to be trained to deal with:


One of the most significant risks to the safety of your employees and indeed the viability of your business is fire. Just one fire incident could destroy your whole organisation, particularly if you run your operations from a single site. Your staff should all be trained in the use of CO2 fire extinguishers and you should have a trained fire marshal to plan and lead an evacuation of the premises in the event of a fire breaking out.

Falling from Height

Your employees should be properly briefed and trained on how to work safely at height. This might mean the correct use of safety harnesses if working on a building site or training in how to correctly set up and use a ladder to avoid falls and related injuries.

Trip Hazards

It might come as a surprise to learn that tripping is one of the most common causes of employee injury at work. You owe it to your staff to train them how to avoid creating these hazards which can seriously injure fellow colleagues (or themselves if they create a trip hazard and then forget it is there!)

Hazardous Substances

These substances are used in many workplaces and may come in the form of liquids, gases, oils or fumes from machinery or vehicles. Exposure to these chemicals can cause breathing difficulties, skin disorders or serious long term illnesses. If you store or use these hazardous chemicals in your workplace then you should make sure your staff are well-trained in how to handle them and know what to do in case of a leak or spillage (Related Course: COSHH Training).


Poor maintenance of electrical equipment can increase the risk of electrocution in the workplace. Your employees should undergo training on how to keep electrical equipment properly maintained and correctly positioned away from any hazards to minimise the risk of an electricity related injury, and how to use equipment safety (e.g. not overloading sockets) or performing maintenance without authorisation.

Manual Tasks

If your employees undertake any manual tasks such as lifting or other duties involving repetitive or sustained movements likely to put stress on the body, then they will require manual handling training on how to minimise their chance of injury. Without this training they will be at risk of repetitive strain injury and may develop chronic conditions such as sciatica or other back related conditions which will put them out of work for long periods of time.

Offering this essential training to your staff can improve their competence and make them more knowledgeable about potential hazards which can injure them in the course of their everyday duties. Don't just rely on insurance to protect your business from health and safety liabilities; educate your workforce and make health and safety training a priority.

The Benefits of Safety in the Workplace

For health and safety managers of any business, it's vital to make sure that the premises is modern, secure, and healthy to be in for both staff and customers alike. You need to have a clear environment to work within and something that people can trust is going to be safe to spend many hours of their time in each day.

To get there, though, you need to really be strict with health and safety; too many people take a rather open-minded approach to staying safe in the workplace. Removing this laissez-faire attitude to safety should be your first step.

Once you do this you will start to notice a wide array of benefits to your business, such as;

1) Saving on insurance costs and legal costs is one of the first things you can benefit from. When all protocols are managed and everything is done to the level and standard that many people expect when dealing with a workplace, it's easier to minimise your court appearances. Following procedure might seem dull, but it keeps the employees in your business safe, and helps to preserve your company's reputation.

2) When there is a positive safety culture in the business, staff members feel like they can come to work with relatively little fears about anything going wrong, and as such are more likely to be productive. As you might imagine this pays off in a good way by giving you increased output from the same level of resources, which will lead to higher profits.

3) Another big part of being health and safety conscious as a business is that it makes staff more loyal. A team will stick together if they feel like you are treating them with respect and that you look after their wishes and their needs. When they feel used or harshly treated, they are more likely to look elsewhere.

4) Improving your reputation within the community as a strong, well-managed business will eventually lead to greater recognition. Pass your inspections, stay up to date and never allow anything to fall behind and you can really become the business people turn to, whether that be potential customers or talented job applicants.

5) Lastly, your staff will be far more likely to actually want to stick around - they will even have less time off. If they aren't being injured in any way at the workplace then you'll get more from your staff as they'll spend less time recovering from any injuries they received working, not to mention being less inclined to seek alternative employment elsewhere!

Techniques To Educate Your Staff About Workplace Safety

Workplace safety is vital to your workforce and to your company. In any business, personnel are your most valuable asset. Workplace safety training is about more than keeping your workers safe, though preventing injury to both your staff and the general public is certainly the major reason for safety training. In nearly every industry, governement and other regulatory boards set standards for worker safety that must be met, and records that must be maintained to prove those standards are being reached. If your company fails to follow the regulations, you could be hit with huge fines. If one of your workers is injured on the job and your company failed to comply with relevant regulations, you may find yourself facing a hefty lawsuit for damages.

Since workplace safety is so vital, training your workers in safety procedures should be one of your company's top priorities. When choosing or designing a workplace safety education program, there are a number of things to take into account.

Reaching All of Your Workers

A great deal of the safety training that your workers need is information based. There are rules, regulations, standards and procedures that they should understand. Getting all that information into their hands can be time consuming. Mandatory meetings can eat into production time, and it can be difficult for your employees to retain when the info is all crammed into a one hour training session. According to the U.S. Department of Education, about 90 million Americans demonstrate low competency in reading, math and basic logic. In addition, there are about 32 million Americans for whom English is a second language. Any time you run a training session for a large number of people, you should simply assume that a percentage of your workers are struggling with understanding what's being read or spoken.

Safety training videos are an excellent eay to deliver the information that your workers need to know. While you can screen videos for your work crews in in-house meetings, there are ways to make it more convenient for your employees - and help them learn and retain more from what they see.

Make Training Videos When it's Convenient for your Workers

Putting your safety training films and course materials online on a company server lets your workers log on and study at their own pace, which is a key reason why online health and safety courses have increased in popularity so much over the last few years, although they may not be suitable for every type of course and qualification. That can be a lot easier that trying to gather everyone for screening while still managing coverage for the floor or work site. Many of the best safety training films are evailable in a format that can be streamed or downloaded from a central server. Many companies are also turning to iPods, mini DVD players and MP3 players to deliver safety videos and training to their workers.

Use Participatory Activities to Help Drive Points Home

One environmental plant manager, for instance, used maps of the facility to help his workers understand safety planning. In an in-service training session, he handed out maps and asked them to mark various safety hazards on the map in different colours. It helped them to visualise the layout of the plant in relation to safety hazards, and helped him identify gaps in their knowledge for where further training was needed.

Train in Context

While safety training videos can be an excellent way to explain important concepts, they work best if you use them in context. Unless a training film has been custom made for your particular company, your workers will get more out of the video if you put it within a framework. If you're showing a video on how to identify asbestos, for example, start with an explanation of how the training applies to their job and why it's important for them to understand it. This will prevent a loss of concentration as they realise why they are receiving this training and how it is relevant to them.

Reinforce Concepts from Safety Training Films After the Video is Over

After the video, encourage discussion by asking questions and stepping back to listen to answers. It will help you guage how well the message was received and give you the opportunity to reinforce important concepts and correct mistaken assumptions.

Case Study: The Importance of Health and Safety in the Workplace

A typical day in the workplace at a leading supermarket distribution company almost ended in disaster when an employee collapsed while picking and packing on the mezzanine floor.

The employee was unresponsive and the youngish man (in his late thirties) was turning blue in the face. A fellow employee then shouted out to surrounding workers who phoned the internal emergency number for on-site issues and accidents. Two supervisors were on the case immediately performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the young chap for 10 minutes until the real emergency medical team turned up.

It turns out the employee's life had been saved by the action of the two supervisors who had previously received Health and Safety and First Aid Training in CPR and AED incidents in the workplace.

After an investigation took place the employee had mentioned he was scared of heights - although he felt safe on the mezzanine floor - but remembered slipping on some liquid. It was later revealed the liquid had emitted from a bottle of washing up liquid in a box of 24 where one had split open.

Although it was not a hazardous substance, the liquid did act as a trip hazard (or slip hazard in this case). He failed to report the spillage as he was not working in that particular area at the time, but later said he went to ask another employee if he could borrow the pallet truck. Health and safety training courses would have taught anyone working up on that mezzanine area that a liquid spillage MUST be reported immediately to the safety officer on duty.

Improving Employee Knowledge

The leading supermarket had already posted notices on the walls around the warehouse of the name and phone number of the duty Health and Safety Manager. Training courses help to improve employee knowledge of what they should do when confronted with hazards such as the one that caused this employee to almost lose his life.

Health and safety courses also cover potential dangers in the workplace such as electrical hazards, fire risks and other potential dangers. The environment in which we work can be very different depending on the type of work being carried out there; the office environment has its own potential dangers, and there are more hazards in the warehouse environment. However, the health and safety practices for building and construction sites take on an entirely new level of necessary awareness of safety in the workplace. Ultimately though, whatever industry or types of activities which are taking place, health and safety training is imperative for all employees and managers in the business.

Health and Safety Tips for the Workplace

When it comes to the workplace, accidents that happen might have been avoided for the most part if everyone had some basic health and safety training. Even in an office environment, a few short training courses will help to make employees aware of potential dangers which can easily be avoided.

What follows are some basic tips that will help encourage better safety in the workplace from factories, manufacturing facilities and even office settings where accidents can take place.

Follow all Safety Rules and Regulations

This is a simple one, but if your work environment has specific rules and regulations involving safety features, then they need to be followed. Along with regular formal refresher courses, a quick review of the rules every so often is a good idea when done in an informal setting just to remind everyone that they are still present and are in effect.

Slow Down

Many accidents occur because people start moving faster than they are thinking which can easily lead to an accident happening. Also, tight deadlines and the pressure from management to get things done will create conditions where safety is compromised by employees trying to accomplish a particular task. So, keep it slow and steady which will help avoid accidents.

Reduce Stress in the Workplace

Long hours in a stressful environment can lead to distraction, feelings of anxiety and even depression for many employees. For the sake of everyone's mental health and wellbeing, not to mention their physical safety, a business owner should strive to keep the workplace free of unnecessary stress in order to improve the work conditions and help avoid accidents.

Protect Your Back

Back pain is arguably the most common medical condition in the world and it can happen in any work environment. Your business can provide manual handling training courses to demonstrate the proper methods of lifting, sitting and stretching to help avoid this common condition. In addition, for those who lift heavy objects on a routine basis, investing in the proper supporting equipment will also be of great help and in many cases/industries an absolute necessity.

Scheduled Breaks

Breaks are designed to provide the necessary rest so that employees do not become overly tired or distracted during the course of the day. Breaks should occur at least once before and after the lunch break in order to give employees the ability to recoup their focus. A tired employee is much more prone to making mistakes, and if they are in control of machinery or hazardous processes any errors can have disastrous consequences for the health and safety of everybody around.

Health and Safety Training

As part of your overall efforts to improve employee safety, implementing the right training courses can provide them with the information needed to avoid many types of common accidents. Whilst not every accident can be totally avoided, the right training can help eliminate the most common ones which take employees away from their work and increase your overall cost of production.

Breaking up these health and safety training courses into individual topics such as specific ones focusing on hazardous substances or fire safety is highly advisable. Carrying them out at scheduled intervals rather than trying to cram them into a single, long session where much of the information can be overlooked or forgotten. Tailoring these training sessions to the exact industries and working practices of the employees in your business will also provide much more relevant teaching.


Safety training courses will not only assist with decreasing the number of accidents which occur, it will help improve your bottom line as a business by keeping your employees safe, healthy, at work and with higher morale if they feel that management cares about their wellbeing.

5 Workplace Safety Skills

Every safety professional needs to possess a certain set of skills over and above an academic health and safety certification, compliance knowledge and recognised accreditation. Possessing the requisite technical knowledge without the ability to translate that into daily conversation will greatly hinder your ability to minimise workspace hazards.

These are some of the most common skills a safety officer should seek to acquire and improve upon to be more effective in the role:

People Skills

The most important part of handling safety issues is pre-empting them. Along with being able to identify hazards themselves through their own inspections and investigations, a good safety officer should be able to offer people the opportunity to speak up and the ability to empower the team members on issues regarding their workspace and personal safety. He or she needs to be able to motivate the employees regarding their personal safety and to listen in on their observations and worries.

Proper Writing Skills

A health and safety officer will be required to produce memos, cautions, safety manuals and regular communication to stakeholders both within and outside of the workspace. Proper writing skills are a must have therefore, considering that the cost of miscommunication on safety issues is potentially catastrophic.

Business Knowledge

The best safety managers understand how the safety of the workspace impacts the company's bottom line and they can easily articulate the commercial cost of damages. They also know how the safety costs and conversations fit in with the other areas of the business. Safety is one of the aspects of a business unit that liaises with just about every other office and being able to articulate the link between the safety office and the other department is a valuable skill.

It can be enormously tempting for senior managers and directors in some workplaces to override and instruct staff to ignore health and safety measures in order to increase profits. This can be especially tempting during times of struggle when the company is finding it difficult to make ends meet. A health and safety officer with business knowledge will be able to point out that aside from being illegal, the potential financial costs to the company which can result from a health and safety incident or accident taking place on the premises.

Potential financial penalties include:

  • Fines from authorities
  • Compensation claims
  • Payment of statutory sick pay
  • Recruitment costs for a temporary replacement (or permanent one in serious cases where the person is never able to return to work)
  • Training this new recruit
  • The loss of production whilst the new person is trained and brought fully up to speed
  • Accident investigation expenditure

The list of potential costs is extremely long, which means aside from the moral responsibilities, firms should be keen to prevent harm coming to their employees for financial reasons too.

Safety Conversation Skills

As a safety officer you should be able to communicate complex safety procedures and plans in a way that non-professionals can understand and comply. You should be able to relay safety information in such a way that it fosters safety discussions within the team in a non-threatening manner. Never make people feel stupid or ignorant when they don't understand the safety knowledge being imparted and require clarification or further explanation. The team should always feel empowered by the forums and meetings held regarding workplace safety.

Proper Record Keeping

Some safety issues tend to be seasonal while others tend to happen frequently and in certain moments. A properly trained safety manager should be able to keep up-to-date records on the company's safety policy. This will help him or her to produce well informed quarterly and annual records on hazard incidences as well as figure out the most common risks, their place of occurrence and their level of impact.

Proper record keeping will not only be necessary for any accident investigations or inspections from the authorities, but it can also identify patterns which highlight dangers and hazards which were not previously noticed. For example, if the entries in an accident book all seem to relate to a particular piece of machinery, additional safety and protective features may need to be installed.

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