Workplace health and safety is what ensures that employees have a safe and healthy environment to carry out their jobs efficiently. While the legal responsibility of ensuring that a workplace is safe and healthy is assumed by the employer, workplace health and safety is really a team effort, as employees also need to follow the measures put in place to keep themselves and everyone else safe.
Even though the employer is responsible for health and safety, they don’t typically have the expertise to properly assess health and safety in the workplace – that’s why health and safety is typically outsourced to contractors such as Howlett Health & Safety Services to gain professional insight into health and safety.
In this article, we shall take a look at how you, as an employee, can participate in workplace health and safety in order to ensure the well-being of both you and your colleagues.
Understand Your Rights and Responsibilities as an Employee
Understanding your legal rights as an employee is crucial for holding your employer accountable. While your employer assumes the legal responsibility of workplace safety, it falls within your right to ensure that they are keeping their end of the bargain.
Some of the rights you have as an employee include; having any and all risks to your safety and health properly controlled, proper PPE and safety equipment, proper safety training, the right to stop work (and leave your work area) if there are concerns to your safety, the right to voice all safety concerns to your employer, rest breaks, and the right to not be disciplined if you file a complaint to a regulatory agency about your employer not complying with workplace health and safety regulations.
In addition to knowing your rights, you should also understand your responsibilities as an employee, the most important being taking care of your own safety and health while working. Some of your other responsibilities include; taking care not to put fellow employees and customers at risk, following the rules and safety measures, cooperating with your employer, reporting any injuries or illnesses, not misusing equipment and making your employer aware of anything that can interfere with your ability to work.
Always Wear the Proper PPE and Safety Equipment
Proper PPE (personal protective equipment) is necessary to maintain a safe working environment. This will be provided for you (free of charge) by your employer and must be used correctly. Avoid the temptation of cutting corners or choosing not to follow every protocol and follow the instruction and training you’ve been given on the proper use of this equipment. You may face disciplinary actions if you fail to use your PPE properly and in some jobs, it can even be grounds for dismissal.
You do, however, have the right to refuse to wear any PPE that puts your safety at risk. For example, if the PPE is the wrong size, you have the right to ask for a different size.
If you see Something, Say Something
One of the best things you can do to improve workplace health and safety as an employee is to always voice your concerns. Most organizations will have a system put in place for employees to speak to a supervisor about any questions, concerns, or suggestions they may have about workplace safety.
However, if your organization doesn’t have a system put in place, you should still speak up (preferably to your employer) if you notice anything that might be a safety issue. Even something as simple as reminding your co-workers about a safety protocol that is being ignored or forgotten can be helpful in making the workplace safer.
Look Out for One Another
Always bear in mind that every workplace is only as safe as its most unsafe employee. This means that the unsafe actions of one individual can put the whole team at risk, so it is important to keep an eye to make sure that everyone is doing their part to maintain safety. Talk to your colleagues about their unsafe behavior and how it can affect others.
Lead by Example
You don’t have to be in a leadership position to act like a leader. As an employee who cares about workplace health and safety, be a good example to your colleagues by following all the rules and safety measures that have been put in place. If you can get one or two persons to follow your lead, then it is the right step toward creating a safer and healthier working environment.
Workplace health and safety is and always will be a team effort. As an employee, you need to actively participate and take responsibility for your own safety and the safety of others. Wearing proper PPE at all times, voicing all safety concerns, looking out for one another and leading by example are some of the ways you can contribute to workplace safety as an employee.