You may think workplace safety programs and procedures are just a way to coddle new workers; that the rules don't apply to big, tough, manly men (or women) like you who know what they're doing. But did you know this attitude started as a form of peer pressure from factory workers and overseers who didn't want to spend extra money to make sure their workers were safe? Whether you work in iron smelting or plastic fabrication, Toronto or Madrid, whether you've worked there for 20 years or 20 minutes, workplace safety is something you need to be concerned about. Here are some things to check out to see whether your workplace is safe.
The first step most companies make toward a safer workplace is to post signs detailing the proper method you should use to perform a potentially dangerous task. For instance, if you work on a construction site, is there a sign that tells you the hazards and that hard hats and safety footwear must be worn? Is there safety barricades around the build site? (see examples here) The sign should be highly visible, hung where it is most likely to be seen and written in bold letters with bright accent colors to draw attention to it.
Occupational Health and Safety Compliance
Most countries have government mandated requirements for job safety that require every worker in a particular field take a mandatory safety class in the activities they will be performing on the job. Courses exist for everything from the proper handling of the materials to how to use a plug in an office. You'll know if you've take it, because they'll have given you a card or certificate for passing. If you haven't, go online to determine if one exists for your particular job.
Access to Literature and Emergency Equipment
All workplaces should have literature on hand that details the proper handling of any materials used on site, which are dangerous, and what to do if you are accidentally exposed. Not everyone remembers every detail of the safety course, but workers need to know whether the industrial insulation they're working with can be harmful to their lungs or eyes. Therefore the materials should be in a binder or posted on a board in an area accessible to all employees. Emergency equipment such as eye wash stations or spill cleanup packs should also be available in case of an accident.
Election of a Safety Officer
Regardless of whether you work in a dangerous factory job or a boring office, your company should have given you the opportunity to elect a co-worker as a safety officer. A safety officer is a person you can go to with safety or health concerns, like if there are nails sticking out of the table in your lunch room or if food stored at the correct temperature? This person would then be responsible for reporting your concerns to management and making sure they were handled.