How can workers ensure on-the-job safety?

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, private employers reported almost 3 million non-fatal injuries and illness among their employees in 2011. While laws exist to help provide safe workplaces for workers in the U.S., employees themselves can take steps to help protect themselves while on the job.

Education

One of the most important things that employees can do to help promote workplace safety is to educate themselves. Workers should be aware of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration's industry-specific safety standards for the fields in which they work. Additionally, employees should learn about their employer's workplace safety policies. Employees may also want to take advantage of any safety training that employers offer or reimbursement programs for off-site safety courses.

Follow protocols

Once employees know about safety practices, they need to make sure they follow them in the workplace. Employees should wear proper safety equipment, such as hard hats, protective footwear, gloves, safety glasses, ear plugs and safety vests.

Employees should follow safe operating instructions for all tools and equipment. Workers should make sure that they follow routine maintenance schedules for equipment and not to use equipment that is in disrepair. Employees should report damaged equipment to supervisors so that management is aware that the equipment presents a risk to employees.

Awareness

It is important for employees to be alert while on the job. In many cases, when an employee has been working in a particular role for some time and has achieved mastery over the tasks involved, he or she can become less vigilant and may not pay as much attention to what he or she is doing.

Employees should be on alert for potential dangers, such as clutter in the workplace, wet floors or unattended tools. Employees should also make sure to take regular breaks from their jobs so that their attention does not flag due to fatigue.

Employer responsibilities

Employees can contribute to the safety of a workplace, but employers also have a duty to provide safe working conditions for employees. The Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970 charges employers with the responsibility of making sure that their workplaces are free of known dangers. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration creates safety standards for each industry and enforces those standards. If employers do not meet the safety standards, they face fines and other penalties.

If you have been injured on the job, speak with a skilled workplace injury attorney who can help you recover for expenses such as lost wages and medical bills resulting from the injury.