Safety in the Workplace: Everything You Need to Know

Safety in the workplace is one of the most important things for employers and employees to keep in mind. Regardless of what type of industry you operate in, it is important to be safe at all times when engaging in the daily duties of your job. This could be true for those working in a warehouse type of environment or even an office in which you sit at a desk. Believe it or not, there are several issues and problems that could arise in the workplace due to safety issues, so you will want to ensure that you are aware of everything around you to keep you and your colleagues safe at all times.

Workplace Safety Tips Every Employee Should Know    

  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
  • If you work in a position that requires safety gear, make sure you wear it; this includes safety goggles, helmets, masks, coats, etc.
  • If you see someone not wearing his or her protective gear, remind that person of the importance of wearing such gear.
  • Be aware of any cracks in the flooring or ceiling in and around your workplace station.
  • Be sure to pay attention to your posture at work. While this may seem a bit silly at times, it is important for everyone, including those simply sitting behind a desk all day. Sitting all day can cause issues for your back, so make sure that you have proper posture.
  • Take regular breaks when allowed. Stretch your legs and use the restroom to get some exercise, step outside for fresh air if you work indoors, go for a walk if you can to break up the day so that your body isn’t in the same position.
  • Use tools and machinery properly.
  • Be aware of emergency exits if you work in a building.
  • Report any unsafe conditions that you come across to your supervisor. Your manager should be well educated about safety in the workplace.
  • Use mechanical aids when possible. For example, take the additional moment to utilize a wheelbarrow, transport line, wrench or forklift. An excessive number of damage can occur when attempting to lift something that weighs a lot.
  • Remain sober. Don’t drink while on the job. This not only causes safety issues, but other issues could stem from this, including potential termination. For example, if you’re a truck driver, the last thing you should be doing is drinking on the job. In fact, not only would you be terminated, but you could cost lives – even your own. Not to mention, you could be held criminally liable if someone else is injured due to your negligence.
  • Don’t walk and talk on the phone unless you are well aware of what is going on around you. You won’t want to talk on the phone if you are working at a warehouse with heavy machinery being used around you. Similarly, you won't want to walk and text or surf the web as you may not be paying attention and injure yourself or someone else.

Overall, you’ll want to be aware of what is going on around you, and what others are doing around you. For example, someone working in a warehouse. If someone is using a forklift negligently, you may be injured as a result. Therefore, you’ll want to bring this to that person’s attention while also alerting your supervisor to the issue. Sometimes the problem is not the employer, it’s a colleague who is negligently using equipment or creating a greater safety risk for others in the workplace.

Employees’ Rights & Responsibilities        

The law provides rights for employees in that all employees should be provided with the necessary safety gear when operating in certain industries. Therefore, if your employer fails to provide you with safety gear while you are working in a warehouse with chemicals, this is a problem. The law also provides that you as an employee have the duties to ensure that you are provided with all necessary equipment to do your job safely. If you see something, say something. Be sure to first reach out to your supervisor or manager with the problem. Then take it to HR if necessary. If that doesn’t work, you can contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and lodge a formal complaint. OSHA is the administrative unit of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which is an Act established under the U.S. Department of Labor. OSHA covers all safety issues and regulations in the workplace. Therefore, if you have a problem with your employer regarding the failure to provide safety gear or otherwise keep your workplace safe, you should file a formal complaint with OSHA. After that, an OSHA representative will visit your workplace to inspect the problem. While your complaint can, in fact, remain anonymous, the OSHA representative may have additional questions for you, which means that your employer may find out that you filed the complaint against them. However, keep in mind that this should not be a deterrent for you, as retaliating against you is illegal. So, you will want to ensure that you share the problem with OSHA if your employer fails to rectify the problem.

Common Workplace Problems      

Some common workplace problems include:

  • Failure to provide safety equipment
  • Failure to install proper plumbing
  • Failure to install proper ventilation
  • Failure to install proper lighting
  • Failure to provide adequate first-aid kit stations
  • Slippery or uneven flooring
  • Fire/explosion issues
  • Dust issues
  • Fumes or vapor issues
  • Radiation issues, etc.

Seek Expert Advice  

If you still have safety issues in the workplace, you could always seek the help of an attorney. If your issues are related to workplace injuries that you’ve sustained, that is an entirely separate issue that will likely need to be addressed with an attorney, since you’ll have a claim for workers' compensation if something like that does occur. If you see someone else injured due to the negligence on the part of the employer, be sure to identify yourself as a witness to the incident, and advise HR that you believe the accident was due to the failure on the part of the employer to provide a safe workplace.

However, keep in mind, regarding workplace safety, you aren’t only protecting yourself, you are protecting your colleagues and everyone who visits the workplace site. Therefore, any issues should be addressed immediately; and if not, then you can escalate the issue to an OSHA representative. The last thing the employer would want is to fix the problem only after someone has been injured, or worse, lost his or her life because of it. That is why it is so important to educate employers on the importance of workplace safety to prevent injuries as well as prevent legal proceedings that could cause the business not only money but could cause it to close its doors.

Develop a Plan         

Develop your plan to ensure that the safety issues at work are being addressed in a timely manner. In fact, there shouldn’t be any time in between a workplace complaint regarding safety and the resolution of that issue. That issue should be addressed and fixed almost immediately after you bring it to someone else’s attention. If, however, the workplace safety issue is something that will need time to be rectified, then think of your next steps. Do you feel safe working in that type of environment? If not, you should indicate as such to your supervisor. If you feel as though your complaint isn’t being addressed at all, then you should reach out to OSHA for additional guidance and help.

If you need assistance with safety in the workplace, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel receives merely the top 5 percent of attorneys to its site. Attorneys on UpCounsel come from law schools all over the nation.