Safety at the workplace is relevant to the health of the employees and the smooth running of the company. Absenteeism of employees causes high costs and can significantly disrupt the operation of small and medium-sized companies in particular. It is particularly annoying for employers if absences were avoidable. This applies to accidents at work and health problems caused by inadequate standards of health and safety at work in the company.
Effective work safety measures are of crucial importance for companies in all sectors – whether industrial workplaces, the service sector or trade. At the same time, exemplary health and work safety help to attract new employees and retain existing specialists. The following eleven tips on work safety give every company a small insight into what they can do immediately to improve health and safety at work in their company.
WORK SAFETY: WHAT IS IT?
The legal framework is provided by the Work Safety and Health Act (ArbSchG), which came into force in 1996 and was last updated in 2015. It obliges employers to assess health and safety risks in the workplace, define protective measures and implement them.
The regulations on work safety are intended to prevent accidents at work and health hazards. Employers and employees benefit equally from the formulated guidelines in terms of work safety. Accident prevention and the avoidance of health hazards are in the personal interest of every employee, but also in the company’s interest. After all, the long-term absence of an employee can not only noticeably disrupt business operations but also result in legal consequences.
Companies are legally obliged to comply with accident prevention regulations and to take specific protective measures to ensure and improve health and safety at work for all employees. Work safety is, therefore, a preventive matter. If an accident is subsequently attributed to negligence or inadequate accident prevention on the part of the company, there is the threat of substantial fines, in the event of death, even prison sentences and in any case damage to the company’s image.
Did you know?
The German Statutory Accident Insurance (DGUV) reports 877,198 reported accidents at work for 2018, which is 0.42 per cent more than in the previous year. 420 of the accidents ended fatally.Source: DGUV, Occupational accidents and losses of work in 2017 and 2018
1. FORM A TEAM FOR HEALTH AND WORK SAFETY
Health and safety at work need a secure place in the corporate culture. Only in this way will it be actively lived by the employees. To this end, the management must establish a performing work safety management system in the company structure, that takes care of the implementation of guidelines and regulations on work safety in all areas.
A well-functioning work safety management only works with the right team. Safety officers and first-aiders must generally be appointed in every company. The remaining team members can be selected according to their expertise and practical experience. The appointed employees regularly exchange information in meetings about the latest status of regulations, guidelines and the achievement of objectives.
2. PROPER AND SAFE USE OF WORK EQUIPMENT
All necessary work equipment must be used properly and safely. Workers should, therefore, know the risks and the required protective measures that apply to their workplace. These include, for example, the correct handling of specific machines or the need to wear protective equipment. Besides, electrical equipment must be regularly maintained by qualified personnel.
A helpful tool for work safety is the risk assessment to determine both the risks and the necessary protective measures. If this is carried out regularly, work safety in the company can be optimised in the long term. While employers ensure that their employees are trained in work-related protective measures, employees must be careful to comply with them.
3. USE PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT
Many workers find it a nuisance to wear protective equipment repeatedly when operating a machine or the like for only a short time. Nevertheless, this time should be applied. If such safety measures are not observed, and something happens, this has considerable consequences for the employee and the employer. Therefore it should be a matter of course in every company to provide and wear protective equipment.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is generally used at all workplaces where workers are exposed to mechanical, thermal or chemical hazards. Depending on the hazard, the equipment protects the head, face and eyes, respiratory tract, hearing, feet and hands, the entire body, or serves as fall protection.
4. ERGONOMIC WORKPLACE DESIGN
The ergonomic design of the workplace prevents health problems. This includes that every workplace can be reached easily and without danger. Neighbouring workplaces or other obstacles should not disturb it. The respective employee must be able to move around his workplace without hindrance and carry out his work comfortably. All furniture and surfaces should be adapted to the height of the employee.
Ergonomics is not only important when sitting at a desk: all work equipment, devices and materials in a company must be ergonomic so that they are easy to use and easy to reach. Equipping workplaces, according to ergonomic standards, should not only be in the interest of the employee. Preventive health protection reduces the costs of illness and the consequences of diseases – an aspect that should also be close to the heart of employers.
5. CREATE A PLEASANT CLIMATE
Working conditions have a significant impact on health and safety at work. Pleasant temperatures at the workplace ensure the physical well-being and right concentration. Therefore, companies should take appropriate protective measures for high temperatures in summer, for example, in the form of air conditioning, reduction of heat sources or protection from direct sunlight. A maximum room temperature of 26 degrees Celsius is recommended.
The same applies to the winter season. A minimum temperature of 17 to 20 degrees Celsius should be maintained at the workplace. Thermal insulation and functioning heaters are necessary for work safety. Furthermore, excessively dry air should be avoided. With the help of thermometers in shady places and hydrometers, that can be easily checked.
6. PROVIDE OPTIMAL LIGHTING
Inadequate lighting at the workplace can cause severe strain on the eyes and eyesight. The result can be an impaired vision. But even as an accident risk, little light should not be underestimated. The same applies to too much light. In the best case, workplaces are equipped with sufficient daylight. This contributes to a sense of well-being and is the least stressful for the eyes. If it is structurally possible, one-tenth of the room floor area should be flooded with light and have a visual connection to the outside. For activities where precise vision is particularly important, such as in precision engineering, it should even be one fifth.
Otherwise, artificial light must compensate for the deficit. Lamps should be positioned in such a way that they do not dazzle either directly or indirectly. Daylight lamps that imitate natural light are also available. Blinds can reduce daylight when there is too much light.
7. REDUCE THE NOISE LEVEL
In the long run, high noise levels in the workplace can lead to hearing damage, concentration difficulties, stress or even serious illness. The use of noise-reduced machines or work processes significantly reduces exposure. If this is not possible, sound insulation or sound shields can reduce noise exposure.
A noise-intensive workplace can be shielded from surrounding workplaces by capsules or sound absorbers. Otherwise, the use of hearing protection is also a way to reduce noise exposure.
8. CHECK FIRE PROTECTION AND ESCAPE ROUTES
Escape routes and emergency exits should be easily accessible and readily available to all employees. Emergency exits must never be locked, obstructed or wedged. In companies where open doors pose a safety risk, it must be possible to open these doors immediately when an alarm sounds. A safe escape route is signposted and leads from each workstation to an outdoor assembly point.
While escape routes always lead directly outside, fire doors protect employees in different areas of the building by preventing the fire from spreading to the entire building. All employees should receive instruction on fire safety measures and escape routes. It is also advisable to carry out a fire drill at least once a year.
9. PAY ATTENTION TO HAND HYGIENE
One of the most uncomplicated measures of work safety is hand hygiene. Only the corona pandemic shows again that this is not a matter of course. For employees to be able to protect themselves against infection with transmissible diseases, employees must provide everything necessary for adequate hand hygiene.
Many companies provide their employees with medical disinfectant so that they can clean their hands and workplace. This is particularly advisable during the cold season. Besides, information leaflets on how to wash your hands properly can be hung up in the toilets to raise awareness of the issue.
10. TAKING BREAKS
The Working Hours Act (ArbZG) provides information about, which breaks employees have to take. It is not only important for health in general to take breaks, but also how they are organised. The legal regulations on break times and maximum working hours are intended to protect employees from overexertion and unpaid overtime.
The assumption is that no one can work eight hours without significant loss of performance. The consequence is, that concentration decreases, which increases the risk of errors in the workplace. This can have fatal consequences, particularly in occupations in which machines are operated, or vehicles are driven.
11. CREATE OPPORTUNITIES FOR HEALTH
All measures taken in a company to protect the health of its employees are referred to as occupational health. These include preventive measures, such as company sports activities, which are intended to strengthen the health of employees in the long term. Often these are measures designed to enhance endurance or, if the majority of the work is done sitting, to make all parts of the body more flexible and more robust again.
In larger companies, it is also useful to offer preventive occupational health services, which are carried out by the company doctor. In this way, work-related injuries can be detected at an early stage and can be treated accordingly. Employees should be made aware by the company that such occupational medical check-ups are not harassment, but are useful. It is necessary that employees seriously cooperate in the examinations and report potential complaints to the company doctor – only in this way can their health at work be protected.
WORK SAFETY IN SHORT
1. The Work Safety and Health Act (ArbSchG) is the legal framework for work safety and health at work.
2. Work safety also includes health protection.
3. The regulations on work safety are intended to help prevent accidents at work.
4. Through preventive measures, longer absences of employees can be avoided.
WORK SAFETY IS A TOPIC FOR ALL INDUSTRIES
Work safety is not only a preventive measure that protects against injury and health risks but also contributes to well-being. If employees feel comfortable and safe, their ability to concentrate increases and the work results achieve consistent quality. This, in turn, has a positive effect on the performance of the company. Occupational health and safety is a multifaceted topic that has a few unique features for different industries. In our article, this time, we have picked out the measures that can be implemented immediately in each industry. Because every company benefits from active work safety management.