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Safety at work: knowing your rights

Safety at work
27th April 2016

Each year on April 28th attention around the world is focused on health and safety in the workplace.

Workers’ Memorial Day, which remembers those who have lost their lives through workplace accidents and illness, and international event World Day for Safety and Health at Work, both help highlight the joint responsibility of employers and employees in creating safe working environments.

Life-changing injuries and diseases can occur in all lines of work whether it be on a construction site or in an environment deemed lower risk.

This post looks at the safety standards for employees in the UK, your entitlement to a safe working environment and your own responsibilities. It also looks at what support is available should you suffer the consequences of a work-related accident or illness.

How safe are UK workplaces?

The United Kingdom consistently has one of the lowest recorded rates of fatal workplace injury in Europe, and a higher number of workplaces undertaking regular health and safety risk assessments than most EU countries, including Spain, France and Germany.

However, no matter how comparatively low the numbers are, workplace incidents still affect the lives of hundreds of thousands in the UK every year.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, 2014-15 saw well over 600,000 workplace injuries reported across the nation, with 142 of these resulting in loss of life.

It also states that there are around 13,000 deaths each year from work-related lung disease and cancer, which are thought to have been caused by past exposure to chemicals and dusts in workplaces.

The figures are still far too high and every employer in the UK has a responsibility to reduce the risk of workers suffering accidents and illness. 

Your entitlement to safety

Your employer’s obligations to you remain the same, regardless of where you work.

As an employee you’re entitled to:

  • a safe place of work
  • a safe system of work
  • safe equipment and machinery
  • safe and competent colleagues

This doesn’t just mean being protected from immediate physical harm, it also means that your employer helps to guard you against injuries resulting from issues such as repeated exposure to loud noises or chemicals, repetitive strain injury or vibration-related conditions.

Part of your employer’s duty of care includes providing specific safety training before undertaking tasks or using machinery that may involve a high level of risk.

Where necessary, your work and shift patterns should also support your long-term health and welfare.

Your responsibility

It’s important to remember that you hold an element of responsibility for your own workplace safety too.

It can be tempting to ignore health and safety advice for the sake of getting a task done quickly but recognising that minimising risk is everyone’s responsibility helps to ensure that work accidents do not occur.

If your employer hasn’t provided you with adequate training or equipment, or you become aware of a potential safety risk, it’s vital that you speak up. Do not rely on someone else to flag up a potential issue.

Following safety procedures and staying vigilant not only protects you, it also helps to make sure that colleagues are protected too.

Life with injury or illness

If you are injured or suffer an illness as a result of poor health and safety standards, the impact can affect all aspects of your life.

You may lose income whilst you recover, or face the prospect of not being able to return to work at all.

The sudden need for 24-hour care may throw you and your loved ones into new roles in the home creating an entirely new set of circumstances that can place additional pressure on relationships and resources.

In the most tragic situations, a loved one may have been the victim of a workplace fatality.

Depression, anxiety, fear or worrying about your career and potential subsequent financial repercussions for you and your family can become an everyday reality.

Every situation and injury is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach, but help is available.

Finding normality

Making a claim, especially when it’s against your employer, can be a daunting prospect.

Having someone alongside you to help you to identify whether you may be the victim of negligence of a health and safety breach can make a huge difference, and that’s what Your Legal Friend is here for.

What’s important to us is that you and your loved ones are taken care of, not just with regards to any initial injury you’ve sustained, but also to any subsequent loss and suffering that occurs as a result.

Our specialist team has over thirty years’ experience in helping and supporting people who have developed work-related illnesses or have been injured in a workplace accident. We can offer advice on what benefits you may be entitled to, and we can advise and support you with your claim every step of the way.

If you think we can support you and your family, please feel free to call our team on 0808 159 6456.