A safe work environment is a reasonable expectation that employees have of their employers. Employees want their employers to protect them from job hazards, but it’s important that employees realize they have a role in maintaining a safe workplace as well.
Both employers and employees share the accountability for encouraging a safety culture to improve behavior and performance in the workplace. They also share accountability to encourage peers to value safe work practices and safety programs in a positive, proactive way. Employers and employees can work together to achieve an effective safety culture.
Safety is the business and responsibility of every employee and can be achieved through proper education, training, use of protective equipment and by following safety rules, regulations, standards, and laws. Each employee is responsible for understanding and practicing appropriate safety procedures.
- Act as safely at work as you would elsewhere, if not more so.
You should take reasonable care of your health and safety no matter where you are or what you’re doing. This is especially true in the workplace, where your actions can affect both your own safety and that of others. It’s important to cooperate with your employer, make sure you receive the proper training for your job, and understand and follow your company’s health and safety policies. In addition to your company’s policies, there are generally accepted safe work practices and laws by which you should also abide.
- Use the tools available to you to maintain a safe environment.
Your company will provide you with tools to ensure your health and safety at work. It’s your responsibility as an employee to use them. Observe health and safety signs, posters, warning signals, and written directions. Follow safe practices and specific guidance from Safety Data Sheets (SDS) or chemical label instructions, if your work involves hazardous materials. Use engineering controls and personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate to your work. It’s also important that you never interfere with or misuse anything that’s been provided for your health, safety or welfare.
- Educate yourself on hazards, safety practices, and rules.
When you’re first hired, your company will provide you with adequate training for the work you are expected to perform, including the tools you will need to get the job done. They’ll train you on company safety policies and potential hazards. However, this is not where your on-the-job education should end. It is up to you, the employee, to continue to educate yourself. Learn about potential hazards associated with your work and work area, know where information on these hazards is kept for review, and use this information when needed.
Make sure you are familiar with your company’s emergency response plan and participate in emergency drills so this information is always fresh on your mind. Participate in health and safety training when it is available, as well as monitoring programs and inspections as applicable to the work situation. Being in a state of continuing education will help you recognize when you are not qualified or adequately trained for a work task, which will prevent you from operating equipment or machinery unless you’ve been adequately trained.
- Communicate about unsafe practices and conditions.
You are the first line of defense against unsafe practices. When you are aware of hazardous conditions or behavior, defective equipment, or other hazards, it is your responsibility to warn your co-workers to keep them out of harm’s way. You should report all unsafe acts, unsafe conditions, illnesses and injuries to the appropriate person at your company.
No one knows your job or tools better than you do – if you think a job or task is unsafe, stop the work and communicate your concerns with your supervisor. You should also consider ways to make a process or equipment safer and communicate those as well.
- Identify and lower your Level of Acceptable Risk (LOAR).
The Level of Acceptable Risk is the “warning light” threshold that each employee has that establishes the level of risk an employee is willing to take or accept to perform a task or operation before he or she feels the risk is too great.
Each time you successfully take a risk while performing a job, your LOAR rises. You start telling yourself, “I’ve done this a hundred times and nothing has happened to me. I’m going to keep doing it this way. Nothing will happen to me.” You must learn to lower your LOAR and integrate safety procedures as you plan your work to remove the risk.
- Remember that following safety rules and regulations isn’t optional – it’s the law.
OSHA’s General Duty Clause states, “Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued according to this Act which is applicable to his own actions and conduct.” This means that, by law, employees must follow the OSHA rules and regulations while performing work operations.
People go to work every day expecting not to be injured. As an employee, you have a right to a safe and healthful work environment, but employers are not the only ones responsible for your safety – you are, too. By accepting these six employee safety responsibilities, you are making your workplace a safer place for both you and your co-workers.
APPLICABLE OSHA INFORMATION
OSH ACT OF 1970, SEC. 5. DUTIES (b)