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How to prevent injury claims with safety at work

by Guest injury law blogger on April 25, 2013

Daytime television is full of commercials for firms offering to represent people in personal injury claims. While the fact that these companies are perceived as actively encouraging nuisance lawsuits is an annoyance to many companies (particularly smaller ones, which struggle to afford legal fees), the reality is that their business is a combination of people trying their luck and people with legitimate grievances. Ironically both sets of claims can often be largely avoided with a degree of forethought and good management practices.

Employers have a duty of care to their employees and must takeHealth and safety at work all reasonable steps to keep them safe at work. The definition of reasonable depends entirely on context and is viewed in proportion to the seriousness of the threat. Many modern work environments have a very limited range of threats, most of which can be avoided by straightforward measures. Ensuring that cables are organized in a tidy way will prevent tripping. It will also help to keep them in good condition, which will help prevent fire. Organizing effective storage facilities (and having clear policies for their use) will also reduce the likelihood of employees tripping over boxes (or injuring themselves by carrying them inappropriately). It will also reduce the likelihood of fire exits being blocked and may very well reduce the amount of flammable material on the premises.

Even in the modern workplace, there are still industries where there is a significant level of risk of injury to employees. Typical examples would include construction, catering and mining. In many cases, minimizing the risk to employees is as much a matter of employee education as it is of providing appropriate safety equipment and facilities. At the end of the day, employers can provide the very best equipment and facilities available in the world today, but they will be of minimal to no use unless the employees know how to use them properly. Making sure that all employees understand the importance of good safety practices, such as the handling of sharps (such as cooking knives and glass-wear) and the correct ways of lifting is a key part of managing these higher-risk environments.

Of course, employees of all levels vary widely in their willingness to adhere to good safety practices, particularly when there is a perception that these practices take extra time or cost extra money. This in itself is a problem which usually needs to be solved by education. Generally the best approach to eliciting the co-operation of employees in this matter is to adopt a carrot and stick approach of explaining the benefits to them and also the risks involved with ignoring the correct safety protocols.

For longer-term employees, this education process typically needs to be ongoing, since it is easy to come away from a training course full of good intentions, but less easy to retain them over the longer term, unless reminders are given. There are many ways of reinforcing the message that safety at work matters to everybody. Many employers place labor law posters strategically around their workplace as a tacit reminder to employees both that the management have a duty to keep workers safe and that workers have a duty to follow safety protocols for their own wellbeing.

Image credit ©Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Thinkstock

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