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When you are at home, the chances are you keep your environment as safe as possible, particularly if you have small children. Most of us childproof our homes, blocking up plug sockets, attaching stair gates and making sure there are no trailing flexes or overhanging pan handles on the cooker. Even if you don’t have kids, you would make sure your stairs are clear, for example, or ensure that there are no hazards lying about.

But somehow when we go to work, many of us assume that our employer will keep us safe, so we forget that we need to look after ourselves too. Of course, your employer has responsibilities and they will have a duty of care to keep your working environment safe. But they can’t legislate for absolutely every eventuality, so you need to take some responsibility for your own safety while you’re at work.

Your employer should have already made you aware of any potential hazards in the workplace. Depending on where you work, these will vary in number. Obviously, if you are operating machinery or working in construction you will be facing more risks than someone who works in an office. But your employer will take this into account and will usually offer training sessions to familiarise you with health and safety policies and procedures. It’s really important that you not only attend these but you pay full attention they’re designed for your safety, after all.

If you see any likely hazards around the workplace which your boss hasn’t noticed or which haven’t been drawn to anyone’s attention, then you need to report it as quickly as possible. Don’t just think someone else will do it by raising people’s awareness you could be preventing a nasty accident. In the same way, if you are working with machinery and you aren’t sure if you are operating it properly, then always ask for extra training. Any boss would rather do this than risk you hurting yourself through misuse.

Depending on your line of work, you might need to wear special safety gear at times. While your employer will provide this equipment for you, it’s up to you to make sure you’re wearing it at the appropriate times. If you need to wear safety goggles, wear them. If you need to wear safety shoes, put them on. It doesn’t matter what you look like protecting yourself is paramount.

You also need to take responsibility for your physical and mental condition during your working day, especially if you are working with dangerous substances or operating heavy machinery. If you don’t feel physically able to work, then you need to inform your boss as soon as possible. A pulled muscle, for example, may stop you from correctly working the machinery, which could in turn lead to an accident involving you or your colleagues.

However careful you are, though, sometimes accidents occur which are not your responsibility. If you have had an accident at work, it might be a good idea to contact a personal injury lawyer to see if you can get compensation.

James Johnson is a health and safety expert who specialises in supporting people who have had an accident at work. He also writes and blogs about how to prevent injuries in the workplace with The Workplace Depot.

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