Inter Law – How safe is your workplace

How safe is your workplace

Depending on the nature of your job, the idea of an accident at work could conjure images of anything from bumping into the corner of your desk to a life threatening injury caused by dangerous machinery. Essentially, whether we are aware of it or not, most of us intuitively expect a certain level of safety in the workplace and legally, until we hit 65 and retire, the boss is obliged to keep your working environment as safe as possible.

This, however, is not always the case. Millions of people have fallen victim to personal injury due to accidents at work. In these cases, safety standards were not up to scratch and unfortunately, people’s lives have been irreparably changed because of this.

When machinery was introduced into the workplace during the 19th century, the number of injuries and fatalities experienced by workers rose dramatically. Those who worked as weavers risked losing limbs or even death, while people who worked as chimney sweeps, labourers and fishermen were also at a high risk of personal injury. Things are very different today as there are strict laws governing health and safety in the workplace. There are institutions such as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and trade unions have the weight to campaign for better working conditions. Despite this, however, accidents and injuries still happen.

It doesn’t matter whether you work in a factory, an office, a construction site or a fishery, if you are injured through no fault of your own it is possible to make a claim, whatever the injury. It could very well be the case that your employer was at fault through failing to ensure the safety of workers so you may be able to make a personal injury claim against them.

Offices are considered to be safe places and those that work there might think they are unlikely to ever have to deal with an injury sustained at work. There are, however, several things your employer should watch out for which could cause serious harm if not kept in check. With offices needing more and more equipment – computers, keyboards, internet, printers and photocopiers – the number of wires on show can get out of control. It is your employer’s responsibility to make sure this does not pose a hazard to workers, trips and slips constitute a large number of the personal injury claims made. Equally, other belongings and equipment such as bags, boxes and coats need to be kept out of the way to reduce the risk of an accident.

With more people spending more time each day at the computer, repetitive strain injury (RSI) could pose a problem, especially if you rely on the computer and are unable to work as the result of this type of injury. Again, it is your employer’s responsibility to make sure the desks and chairs are adequate and to listen to the needs of the employees.

Construction site accidents are common in the UK, even though a huge body of legislative literature exists regarding health and safety on a building site. The machinery used is heavy and dangerous and when combined with a busy site with vehicles of all shapes and sizes coming and going, the environment can be hazardous for construction workers. Scaffolding and ladders also pose a risk and harnesses should be worn above a certain height. In construction, it is not only the job of the employer to make sure the working conditions are as safe as possible, but also to ensure the workers are trained comprehensively in the relevant health and safety rules.

Factories also pose a risky working environment. Again, heavy and complex machinery makes for dangerous conditions if staff are not fully versed on health and safety in the workplace. In this kind of environment, regular risk assessments should be carried out by employers and safety devices on machines should be respected. Factory and industrial work also poses the risk of long term effects such as industrial deafness and potential lung damage if you are working with certain substances. Always take the precautions recommended by your employer; short cuts may increase productivity temporarily but will most likely lead to injury.

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