Making Your Work Environment Safe
DESPITE laws on occupational health and safety, injury and death at work still constitute a major problem. Obviously, then, safety in the workplace cannot simply be legislated. Employers and employees must take a measure of responsibility for their own safety and that of others.
Therefore, all in a work force should wisely take a careful look at their work environment and their work habits. Have you, for example, noted whether your workplace is really safe? Are you working with any toxic substances? If so, are you adequately protected? Are you constantly under stress? Do you accept work schedules that breach legally established limits or hours?
Answers to questions such as these might reveal much about how safe you are at work.
Conscious of Dangers
Trying to maintain an unreasonable work schedule can be dangerous. After examining the results of a survey of 3.6 million workers and 37,200 workplaces, Professor Lawson Savery of Australia’s Curtin University, along with a researcher, published a research paper entitled “Long Hours at Work: Are They Dangerous and Do People Consent to Them?” The answer to both parts of that question was, in effect, yes.
Indeed, tired workers are less efficient and make more mistakes. Professor Savery noted, as reported by Australia’s newspaper The Sun-Herald: “Many companies fostered workaholism and actively sought out and rewarded workaholics.” The consequences are potentially devastating. Perhaps nowhere is this problem as evident as in the transport industry, where drivers may be encouraged or even forced to drive for long hours without breaks—illegal in some lands.
Poor work habits, which may include lack of tidiness and cleanliness, pose another hazard. Leaving tools strewn on the floor or live electric wires exposed often leads to accidents, even fatalities. The same can be said of ignoring safety precautions when using power tools and machinery. Another cause of injury and death is failing to clean up spilled fluids—especially toxic ones. Many injuries have occurred when workers have slipped on oily or wet floors. So it might be said that the first law of good work is to be clean and orderly.
Yet, many are tempted to ignore safety procedures. The journal Monthly Labor Review noted: “Work pressure may lead to perceptions that short cuts are necessary to meet demands.” So some may reason regarding a safety regulation, ‘It has never caused any problem when I ignored it.’ Addressing this issue, one experienced factory manager noted: “One of the worst things that you can do at work is ignore safety procedures and get away with it!” Why? Because this fosters overconfidence and carelessness, leading to more accidents.
The explosion of the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine in 1986 is often described as “the world’s worst nuclear accident.” What went wrong? A report on the disaster speaks of a “catalogue of reckless operating procedures” and “the repeated flouting of safety precautions.”
Both employer and employee can cooperate in foreseeing potential safety hazards. A wise Bible proverb says: “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself.” (Proverbs 22:3) Yes, the wise one observes what could prove to be a dangerous situation and looks for ways to protect himself and others.
When employers do this, they benefit, and so do their employees. For example, a company that redesigned their office to avoid “sick building syndrome” found that before long, productivity was up and staff satisfaction levels had improved dramatically. It was also found that fewer people were out on sick leave. Such consideration for the health of others not only makes for a more pleasant atmosphere for employer and employee but, as seen in this case, can also make good sense economically.
As noted in the preceding article, violence has spilled over into the workplace. What can you do to protect yourself?
Steps That Can Be Taken
Even minor incidents of aggressive behavior at places of work have been found to develop into serious cases of harassment. Harvard Business Review gives this sobering advice: “To address workplace violence, be aware that people who commit small acts of aggression often go on to commit larger ones.”
A woman may not intend to invite the attention of workmates, yet if her manner of dress, speech, and conduct is not modest, others may get the impression that she has loose morals. In recent times, behavior not intended to attract improper attention has sometimes resulted in serious problems, including stalking, rape, or even murder. So be conscious of how your dress and conduct are affecting others. Heed the Bible advice: ‘Adorn yourselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind.’—1 Timothy 2:9.
The Monthly Labor Review identified another potentially hazardous situation, noting: “Concerns arise regarding employees who are working alone at night in desolate areas.” So consider: Is it wise to accept the potential dangers that often come with working alone, especially late at night? Are monetary rewards really worth such a risk?
It is also vital to consider how we react to irritating and hostile behavior of stressed fellow workers. What can be done to defuse a potentially dangerous situation? A Bible proverb advises: “An answer, when mild, turns away rage, but a word causing pain makes anger to come up.” (Proverbs 15:1) Yes, by being kind and respectful in your approach, you may do much to relieve tension and avoid conflict.
In today’s pressure-cooker work environment, irritating and hostile behavior is commonplace. While it may appear to be directed against us, the person may simply be venting his own pent-up stress and frustration. We may simply be in the wrong place at the wrong time. So how we respond is important. It can either defuse or aggravate the situation.
Perhaps, though, there are genuine differences of viewpoint. The book Resolving Conflicts at Work makes the helpful observation: “When we are in conflict, . . . rarely do we communicate at a deep level what we really, honestly feel.” What may be the reason? The book went on to note: “Our conflicts have the capacity to confuse and hypnotize us, and we come to believe there is no way out other than battle.”
What is the answer? LISTEN! The book quoted above observes: “By genuinely listening to people with whom we disagree . . . , we can let go of our emotional investment in the continuation of the fighting and discover solutions.” This is good advice for preventing disagreements or misunderstandings from developing into major conflicts.
Wisely, therefore, use a common-sense approach to safety. This would include being diligent in following local safety regulations. Doing this can go a long way toward making the workplace safer.
It can also be said that the attitude we have toward life, work, and leisure time can have an effect on what sort of work we choose and our attitude toward safety. The following article can help us make good choices in this regard.
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Clean up oil spills thoroughly
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A mild answer can defuse a tense situation