Health and safety at work

Looking after your own health and safety at work can help to reduce the risk of work-related illness and injury. Your employer will have developed a health and safety policy and guidelines to help with this, but it is your responsibility to look after your own health and understand the hazards in your workplace.

Every workplace contains substances and equipment with the potential to cause harm. Your employer will have identified these and taken steps to minimise the risk, but you should always speak to your employer if you have a concern.

Hazards in the workplace

Some of the workplace hazards to be mindful of:

  • Chemicals – such as asbestosĀ and skin and respiratory sensitisers.
  • Exposure to blood borne viruses (BBV) – such as hepatitisĀ and HIV/AIDS and diseases like Legionnares’.
  • Electricity, fire and gas.
  • Slips, trips and falls.

You should speak to your employer as soon as you identify a hazard so that appropriate measures can be taken.

More information can be found on the HSE website about identifying workplace hazards.

Equipment

As well as hazards, the improper use of work equipment can present a serious health risk. When using work equipment, you should always:

  • follow the correct operational procedures;
  • set up the equipment correctly in line with guidance from the manufacturer;
  • request training if you’re unsure how to operate machinery safely.

Looking after your health

Work can be demanding on your physical and mental health. Looking after yourself at home and at work can help you deal with these demands and remain free from illness and injury.

Drugs and alcohol

Drinking alcohol to excess and taking illegal drugs will not only damage your health and wellbeing but will have negative effects on your working life.

As an alcohol or drug user, you might:

  • have a higher level of sickness absence due to the effects of drinking and drugs;
  • be more prone to accidents and mistakes, posing a risk to yourself and others;
  • be disruptive and less productive at work.

If you feel you need help with a drink or drug problem, you should:

  • speak to your GP or employer;
  • contact a local support group or charitable organisation in private.

Visit NHS Choices for information about getting support with alcohol and drug addiction.

Smoking

Smoking remains the most preventable cause of ill health and premature death in England and Wales. As well as the negative health effects, smoking also contributes to an increase in:

  • lost productivity;
  • smoking-related ill-health absence;
  • fire damage.

Smoking cessation support is now widely available through pharmacies and GP surgeries. Although not legally obliged to do so, many companies and organisations are starting to offer a cessation service at their place of work. Smokefree is a free NHS support service to help people stop smoking.

Healthy eating

Poor diet is a major contributor to early death. By changing to a healthy and nutritious diet, your body receives all of the vitamins and nutrients necessary to maintain a healthy working life and prevent many common diseases that could otherwise cause long periods of absence.

Find out how to eat healthier through NHS Choices.

Physical activity

Poor levels of physical activity have been linked to an increased risk of a range of physical and mental health problems.

By being more active in and out of work you are likely to:

  • get ill less often and recover quicker if you do;
  • have fewer epsiodes of work absence;
  • be more productive;
  • have fewer accidents and injuries;
  • be happier and more satisfied at work.

To be more active, you could consider:

  • taking the stairs over using the lift;
  • cycling or walking to work over taking the car or public transport;
  • having a walk after lunch.