Insist on the right equipment to prevent injury
Some workers seem to be afraid to stand up to their employers if they think they are being provided with inferior or dangerous equipment in the workplace.
Not only are you doing yourself a favour by pointing out faults or inadequacies with the equipment with which they provide you, you are also highlighting their legal obligation towards you and all your colleagues. If any of the employees in their care suffer an injury in the course of their work, then the employer is liable to pay compensation, which can potentially be a huge sum of money.
Health and safety, despite coming in for some criticism for the way in which it is applied in some extreme cases, is an essential component of the law in the UK and exists so that all workers are protected from the perils of apathy and indifference on the part of their bosses. Otherwise, we would be like a country such as Kenya, for example, where injured workers are paid compensation of around £2 for the loss of a limb and expected to return to work without complaining.
Some areas of employment are inherently more dangerous than others – the likelihood of someone who works in construction suffering a work injury in an accident is much greater than that of someone who is employed in an office sustaining one. Yet, arguably, if rules and regulations were properly adhered to, then in theory every type of job should be just as safe as another.
Therefore if a hard hat, steel-toecapped boots and high-visibility clothing are not provided or are in poor or unsafe condition, then you have every right to refuse to work.
Employers know they have a responsibility to provide these pieces of equipment – many building sites feature signs at the entrance saying ‘No hat? No job.’ They know that the penalties can be severe if they are caught red-handed with an unsafe environment for their employees.
Don’t be afraid to stand up to negligent employers. At the end of the day, it’s you, and not them, that has to rebuild your life if you suffer a serious injury.
Avoid injury by insisting on proper training
In recent weeks the news has contained several stories of workers suffering life-changing injury because they pressed ahead with jobs for which they were not adequately trained or prepared, such as a warehouse worker whose abdomen was crushed by a reversing lorry. He had not received instructions on how to adjust the docking ramp which he was supposed to be using, and fell off it, into the lorry’s path, while he was attempting to do so.
There was a lorry driver whose hand was broken as he was loading pallets on to the back of his HGV, thanks to a colleague who didn’t know what he was doing continuing to push the crates along, oblivious that his colleague was still at work. There was also a man whose hand was crushed after his supervisor assigned him to operate a machine with which he was unfamiliar. His hand became caught on a pulley and was whipped into the mechanism.
If you aren’t trained properly, you can’t do your job properly. It is illegal for your employer to make you perform tasks for which you are not prepared. As difficult as it may seem, do not allow yourself to be talked into work which you cannot do safely. It could be a matter of life and death.