Workplace Areas
Health and safety in all workplaces
Te employer is responsible for providing a safe workplace. He achieves this through various means:
• Reducing/ eliminating hazards in the workplace
• Establishing safety rules, policies
• Providing safety equipment
• Establishing a risk management environment
What this means for a new starter is that you must follow
these policies and rules at all times when at work. You will
not be thanked if you break these rules in an attempt to do
things “quicker” or “better”. Breaking a safety rule is ofen
grounds for dismissal.
Tere is a reason why older people generally have bad backs, and loss
of hearing. But most old people have all their fngers and their hands
work fne. How can this be when their hands do most of the work?
In your hands there are nerves that tell you when things are hot – so you don’t usually stick your
hand in a fre. Because there are nerves in your hand you get immediate feedback that this is causing
you pain, so better stop.
Your ears and your back don’t have any nerves to give you immediate feedback. So if you damage
your ears or back, it doesn’t immediately translate to a signal to the brain to stop.
If, for example you are lifing a heavy load and using incorrect handling methods, your back won’t
tell you to stop. Unless you burst a disc in your spinal column – and then it’s too late.
So you need to assess the weight and decide whether you need help in lifing it. If you don’t assess
the weight and take on too much then the damage you are doing to your back will appear when you
are older.
It’s the same story with your ears. Your ears have few nerves for feeding back pain, so you might
think that sound exposure is doing no damage, until it’s too late.
Keep listening to very loud music and you’ll need a hearing aid later in life. Guaranteed.
Other dangers at work will be much more obvious, such as chemicals, vehicles, moving parts etc.
Unfortunately, until people are over 25 they have a higher risk tolerance because the frontal
brain has not developed fully. (Some under-25s hink they are indestructible). Unfortunately
this means that you are a high-risk category for accidents.
Your HEALTH is your most important life asset, and at work you will be exposed to many things
that could damage your health. Take care.
Health and Safety in particular is an area where new employees will most likely get some form
of training if only in the form of an “induction” into the safety policies and procedures of the
organisation. Tis is likely to be your frst exposure the legal framework of work. In very simple
terms, the employer has a responsibility to provide a healthy workplace. He does this in several
ways, but YOU also have a responsibility, which I’ll come to later.
From the employers’ perspective a providing a healthy and safe workplace involves a number of core
1. Safe working policies
You can think of the policies as being pretty broad statements where the company says
things like... “We value our employees and health and safety is Number 1”.
Although these are very broad, these are legal commitments and the owners of the company
take them very seriously.
2. Standards
The company may produce a set of standards for common work activities. Things like rules
around fre protection, or working at heights, or areas of work where there is some degree
of risk whether small or large.
3. Practices
At this level we are talking about the specifc tasks that make up jobs and processes.
Tings like how a worker should go about fxing something. It will mention things like, what to do
before starting work, what tools to have, how to check for risks, what step-by-step processes you
should follow, etc.
Your responsibilities are also enshrined in law. You have a legal obligation at work with respect to
your safety and those round about you.
You must follow these Health and Safety policies and procedures, and must not do anything that
puts you or your co-workers at risk. So if you decide to remove an active machine guard (for
instance) and expose you or your co-worker to risk or injury you are likely to fnd yourself in serious
Marks’ story
A new employee spends his frst working morning watching the team bag components at the
workstation. Te supervisor has told the team that you are to be shown all the tasks under close
supervision, as the equipment is highly automated and a little bit complicated. Afer two hours
of watching the team bag components, the team go of for a tea break. In the lunchroom, you are
getting bored, thinking that this is not complicated at all. However to show how willing, you are frst
back on the factory foor afer tea break, ready to start work. Afer a few minutes, the team hasn’t
arrived, so you start up the machine that heat seals the bags. You have seen this hundreds of time
this morning, place the bag under the beam and the machine comes down and seals the bag. Easy.
Except the bag gets stuck, and you put your hand in to clear it, but this triggers the heating process,
and your hand gets burnt. Te rest of the team arrive to see you hand trapped in the machine. Your
working life is over, because in your haste you did not follow instructions.
Never do an unsafe task.
• Never work at heights without proper safety equipment
• Never work without protection from things that could fall on you
• Never work on equipment that is not electrically isolated
• Never work alone or without means of contact with a supervisor
• Never attempt a task you are not trained for
You are particularly vulnerable as a new starter on several fronts:
(1) You don’t have enough experience to recognise potentially life-threatening dangers
(2) You probably want to impress, and are likely to take unacceptable risks
(3) You are unlikely to question the boss if he asks you to do a risky job
(4) You are young and your brain has not fully developed, so you will engage in higher risk taking.
Many new starters are severely injured or worse each year in incidents that could well have been
Offce work area
Working in an ofce for the frst time can be fun. You may have your own desk and workstation and
enjoy the feeling of being in the adult world.
However, although it may look a bit like the classroom, with the boss in the corner ofce, it is quite
In an ofce people are working closely together, so being polite and tactful is absolutely essential. It’s
best to adopt a very low profle in the ofce environment for a while until you have worked out the
way the ofce works. Te sort of ofce work styles you should try to pick up on are:
• How does everybody address the boss? Is it Mr Boss, or Mrs’s boss, or is it frst name
• How do the co-workers get others to help? Is it “Mate, give us a hand here?” Or “Can you
give us a hand when you have a minute?
• How do co-workers give instructions? Is it “Get this done for 4pm will you? “ or “Are you
able to do this by 4?”
• What about co-workers making suggestions? Is it” Don’t do it that way, this is how you do
it” or “May I suggest you try doing it this way?”
• What about the noise level in the offce? Is it like a quiet library, or a noisy like a
• How about when visitors arrive in the offce? Are meetings carried out at the workstation
or taken to another room? (because of noise interference)
• What about answering the phone? Do co-workers answer phones that are ringing out on
others’ desk? How do they answer the phone? Do they use a professional or casual voice?
• What about breaks? Are they taken at the workstation? Are they staggered? Is someone
expected to be in the offce, taking calls at all times?
• What about starting times? No doubt there are offcial start times, but when are people
actually starting and fnishing work? What is their expectation of a new starter?
Tom’s story
I remember I started work thirty minutes early at a new job, but there always seemed to be people in
the ofce before me. So I gradually increased my start time by another ten minutes until I started at
the same time as most of the ofce. (- that turned out to be 1 hour before the ofcial start time)
• What about changes in the offce routine? It’s not unusual for offce workers to work
longer hours to meet the reporting requirements of Head Offce for example.
• Or they may knock off earlier on a Friday if all the work is done. Be alert to the work
environment, and look to help out as far as you are able.
Factory work
Factories can involve many workers, and of course they all seem to be part of a big team, and they all
seem to know what their role is, except you.
Probably the hardest adjustment in factory or plant work is understanding what the factory workers
are actually saying to each other!
It can seem like a foreign language because in a factory much of the discussion is carried out in
abbreviations that can sound like a code! Te equipment and products and tasks will all have
abbreviated names that mean something to the experienced factory worker, but are completely
indecipherable to the new starter. A start of day conversation on the factory foor might go
something like:
“We need to make sure VSD1 is ready for P1 sub plan at 4pm today, so make sure all PLCs have
their protocols checked when the OC1 starts up.”
In a factory there is a rhythm to the production process. If the factory is working in harmony, then
all is well. People depend on each other to interface with the production process and tools. It can be
a quite physical and stressful environment, so it’s important to have good working relationships and
clear communications. Te dangers in a factory are sometimes not self-evident, and this is a concern
for the new starter. Equipment may be able to start remotely and without warning to you. It’s very
important in a factory environment to understand the risks in every task.
Good factories will have carried out a risk assessment for every job, which the new starter
should become familiar with. Problems arise in factories when the regular controlled production
environment changes. Tis is by far the most dangerous time for employees - for example at
shutdowns, or when abnormal maintenance is carried out.
So the key activities for a new starter are:
• Learning the layout and production process
• Understanding the risks while at work
• Learning the language and abbreviations that your co-workers use
• Understanding your critical tasks
• Understanding the priorities of the
overall production process
Site work area
Many new starters will be working in a changing work environment such as construction, logistics,
mining, or with service contractors who are working in diferent locations each day.
In these roles the risks to your health and safety are diferent every day. Equipment is being put
together, buildings are going up, material is being excavated or moved around, freight is coming in
As a new starter this work can be very rewarding. You feel part of something bigger. You may have
pride in being part of a team that is constructing a building or growing a mine every day.
Tis regularly changing work environment has its pros and cons for the new work starter. You need
to know that changing workplaces introduce higher levels of risk.
It may be something as simple as stacking boxes. Every day people are injured at work from falling
materials or tripping over hazards. Did you know that the most frequent injuries don’t occur at very
high heights? Most injuries occur because people trip over.
Be alert to these risks.
Te new site work starter can expect to be chaperoned for a longer period than ofce or factory
work because of these risks.
Te changing work environment will mean that only experienced workers will fully appreciate the
risks involved in that task on that particular day. So you should not be working alone in unfamiliar
areas, or be in construction areas without immediate supervision.
Key activities for the new starter are:
• Understanding the risks in this changing environment
• Being clear about your critical tasks, and the safety requirements around them
• Understanding your role in the overall development