recycling image on computer screenHow your business can help protect the environment

No matter how small or large your organisation, all businesses have a responsibility to manage their impact on the environment. For some businesses, this could be as basic as ensuring your paper recycling bin has clear signage. For others it could be ensuring that environmental hazards such as chemical spillages are carefully managed. A good environmental policy can support your business’ corporate social responsibility as well as reducing costs and ensuring the good health and safety of your workforce.

Well chosen signage can make all the difference to the attitudes and actions of your employees and help ensure that they are doing all they can to minimise waste and avoid risks with more dangerous waste products.

It is always preferable to avoid producing waste in the first place; signage encouraging employees to avoid printing out emails or unnecessary documents can prevent large amounts of paper being used. Contacting the senders of junk mail or returning their letters with “return to sender” written on the back can also help reduce the amount of paper that requires disposal.

It is also wise to remind people that many items can be reused. Folders and binders are often disposed of simply because they are already labelled. Encouraging re-use of these and old pieces of furniture (as long as they remain safe) can also help reduce the amount of waste produced.

Where recycling is required, make sure that your bins are clearly labelled to separate the different materials. This will help ensure that the recycling centre is able to get the maximum value from your papers, cans and plastics. It is also a good idea to position your bins nearest to the areas where the waste is produced; for example, paper recycling next to the photocopier or can recycling in your kitchen area.

There will inevitably be some things which you simply have to throw away, although signage to encourage employees to think about whether they are using the correct disposal method may help challenge some of the lazier attitudes. When there are items that must be sent to landfill, minimise risks by using safety signage for dangerous chemicals or other waste materials. As an employer, you have responsibility for ensuring both the safety of your workforce and that the material is disposed of correctly. Therefore ensure that there are warnings reminding people to wear gloves or eye protection where necessary.

A business that is considerate of the environment saves money, protects its employees and the planet.

Insurance Policy Management Contemporary Drawing Concept
38514777 – insurance policy management contemporary drawing concept

Safety at work should be a priority for any business, particularly in high risk environments such as building sites or warehouses, but who is ultimately responsible for wellbeing?

Employers

Employers are bound by law to take a certain amount of responsibility for employee safety. Every potential site that may be worked in (or visited) must be assessed for risk and the necessary provisions be put in place to reduce the risks posed by potential hazards. Employers can make use of signage to provide employees with safety information; for example, a simple warning sticker above a boiling water point can prevent burns and scalds, while appropriate signage directing employees to the fire exits can ensure that everyone is able to leave the building promptly in the event of an emergency. Use of signage is required under The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1981, and employers have a responsibility to ensure they have the correct signage in place to prevent accidents and injuries.

Employees

All employees have the right to be safe at work. They should, by law, be appropriately trained in the work they will be carrying out and they should also be trained in the health and safety practices of that workplace. These can be very specific, depending on the location and type of business. However, employees also have a responsibility to uphold their training and use the equipment or tools provided to them to keep them safe in the workplace. They may have a responsibility to wear special clothing to prevent injury, or they may have to follow signage to ensure that they avoid certain hazardous areas. The employer is unlikely to be liable for any accident or injury where risk assessments have been carried out and training has been given. Should an employee fail to adhere to instructions or training, they are responsible for any accidents or injuries caused.

very-large-fire-exit-sign

Employee safety is the responsibility of both the employer and employee. It is impossible for employers to keep track of every employee, particularly if they often work off-site, therefore they must put the necessary provisions in place to ensure employees can look after themselves. It is an employee’s responsibility to follow signage and training to keep themselves safe in the workplace. Keeping the site safe using the appropriate signage is just one way to be proactive when it comes to workplace safety.

50858273 - worker in protective uniform in front of forklift
50858273 – worker in protective uniform in front of forklift

Safety is paramount when operating a forklift, and while there are numerous health and safety regulations in place to ensure proper and secure use of machinery, there are plenty of ways you can make sure you’re safe around the workplace. Here are some important things to remember every time you use a forklift. You should check these every time you use a forklift, first starting with your personal equipment, before the forklift itself, the route, the load, and additional steps when completing your shift.

1. Equipment

Firstly, you’ll want to make sure you’re wearing appropriate clothing. In most workplaces, this includes a high visibility jacket, a hard hat and safety shoes. It is also important to make sure that all clothing is well-fitted without any loose items such as ties.

2. The forklift

Before using the forklift for work, a routine check should take place upon starting up. The brakes, steering, controls, warning devices and tyres should all be tested to make sure they are in working order before attempting any job. The seat of the forklift should be adjusted to make sure the operator can access all of the controls easily, and the safety belt should be fastened.

3. The route

The planned pick-up and drop-off of items should be known before starting the job. This means taking into account not only the easiest and clearest route through the designated pathways for the forklift, but where is most convenient and safest for other workers involved. The route should first be checked for potential hazards such as any uneven flooring or objects in the way.

50858273 - worker in protective uniform in front of forklift
50858273 – worker in protective uniform in front of forklift

4. The load

The operator of the forklift should make sure the load is secure, after workers have taken care to make sure that the object has been packed properly. The loads must be evenly positioned across both forks, and the forks should be kept low while moving the object. Operators must not attempt to move any load if there are doubts about its security or stability.

5. Finishing up

After the job is done, the forklift should be parked in its designated area. The forks should be fully down and the park brake applied before the forklift is completely switched off. The forklift must also be completely switched off during refuelling. Once the forklift has been switched off, the keys must be removed and securely stored.

underground-car-parkIt’s not just fast-moving traffic that you have to watch out for when it comes to health and safety; even slow-moving and stationary vehicles in car parks come with plenty of risks attached. A car park is a surprisingly dangerous place with plenty of potential hazards, such as these…

1. Unobservant pedestrians

For some of those on foot, it’s easy to assume that a car park is a safe place. After all, nobody’s moving very quickly, and most of the traffic is safely parked with the engine off. They’re wrong. For drivers, car park pedestrians can be a serious danger – they’ll step out into the road without looking, they’ll take their eye off their shopping trolleys which may roll away, and they’ll not necessarily realise when a car is reversing out of a space in their direction.

2. Speeding drivers

Most car parks are pretty laid back affairs, but you’ll always get the odd driver who treats the place as his or her own personal race track. It’s important to be alert at all times.

3. Crime

It’s sad but true that parked cars can prove too tempting for some. Crime can be an issue in many car parks, with cars left unattended and opportunist thieves taking advantage of a few moments of peace to try and find some loot. Crime against individuals can also be a problem, especially in remote car parks or late at night.

underground-car-park
4. Poor signage

A failure to designate clear pedestrian routes, a lack of visible bay markings and a failure to highlight any obstacles such as speed bumps or kerbs can cause plenty of problems to drivers and pedestrians alike.

It’s clear that any car park – no matter its size or location – can be home to a variety of hazards, presenting problems to both those on foot and those trying to park their vehicles. While some hazards are unavoidable, one thing is certain: ensuring that the appropriate signage is in place will mean that drivers and pedestrians alike will be aware of any potential dangers, and will be more likely to pay more attention to them. Indeed, without the right signage in place to highlight any hazards, car park owners could find themselves in legal difficulties should accidents, injuries or other issues take place on their premises. Spending money on signage is a small price to pay for safety and security.

Stress and worker safety

In any business environment – from corporate to retail – stress is the biggest threat to satisfactory health and safety provision.

Chronic stress is not merely a pesky yet more or less benign response to a healthy workload; it is a persistent disorder that not only impairs a worker’s productivity and performance, but their perception as well.

Psychologist Daniela Kaufer found that the elevated levels of cortisol associated with chronic stress can lead to a decline in neurons and interconnectivity within the brain (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201402/chronic-stress-can-damage-brain-structure-and-connectivity). Stress can actually shrink your brain.

stress photo image

The repercussions of this are not difficult to imagine. Neurological damage can mean slower reaction times and therefore more sluggish responses to hazards. These small differences can determine whether a worker trips over the cord trailing from a colleague’s laptop and seriously injures herself, or whether she identifies the wire as a hazard and steps over it accordingly.

Stress-related insomnia is another very real danger, and can impair the efficacy of warnings and signage. Sleep deprivation can lead to a worker compensating with micro-sleep, ignoring crucial instructions, and nodding off during a task that requires attention, such as operating a forklift, driving a company car, or even pouring a coffee.

When the body demands micro-sleep it is beyond the conscious control of the worker to prevent lapses in concentration. In industrial workplaces, the consequences can be more devastating but this is not to ignore the risk that it poses in the more mundane, office-cubicle setting.

Stress in an office setting can lead to increased incidences of physical violence between colleagues; it can create greater potential for neck and wrist injuries such as repetitive strain injury (since people pay less attention to posture while stressed), and it can lead to physical sickness at work, such as headaches and fatigue (http://www.stress.org/workplace-stress/).

The safety of workers is ensured by government guidelines that demand frequent risk assessments conducted within, and by employees of, the workplace. Since stress can impair judgement, one can imagine a situation where stress is so pervasive that managers do not identify and record the potential hazards (e.g. wiring, pointy desks, or rickety shelves).

The solutions are simple. Organisations should ensure manageable workloads as a basis for adequate health and safety. Furthermore, scheduling activities such as meditation or mindfulness seminars can help to reduce the burden.

 

 

Stress by Alan Cleaver licensed under Creative commons 4