In the UK alone, there are 1.8 million people who suffer from a work-related illness, with 914,000 employees experiencing work-related stress, anxiety, or even depression.
In this respect, the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHSR) have been amended to tackle the issue of unreported psychological health problems. While physical injuries are easier to spot, psychosocial conditions can be less evident and trickier to identify, and previous laws were simply not designed well enough to protect workers’ mental health.
The “new” regulations require employers to embrace a more active role in preventing psychosocial problems within the workplace. But what steps can you take to do so?
Welding Alloys, a leading expert in laser cladding, explains ways to implement psychosocial hazard prevention plans while also sharing evergreen tips on how to preserve the physical well-being of workers in the welding world.
Setting up psychosocial hazard prevention plans
Psychological and psychosocial hazards are factors that can lead to increased levels of stress and discomfort in the workplace. In turn, these can have serious repercussions on employees’ mental health.
Kimlen Naidu, Group HSE Manager at Welding Alloys, said: “Of course, most businesses don’t intend to deliberately hinder the well-being of their people. But the reality is that things such as poor management, a lack of feedback, and an unsupportive work environment can pose a threat to workers’ psychological health.
“One of the first steps you can take to address potential psychosocial hazards within your company is to conduct risk assessments. Is there anything that might be easing or promoting the presence of excessive job demands, fatigue, or harassment in your workplace?
“As you carry out your assessments, you may find that your people are receiving limited support, whether it’s insufficient training or inadequate tools and equipment. You might also discover that there are poor workplace relations among workers, which can trigger harmful behaviour such as violence and bullying.”
Identifying these challenges is no easy feat. However, putting risk assessments in place is a good way to review your business operations on a regular basis, highlight possible stressors, and nip problems in the bud.
For example, based on your findings, you might realise that you need to adjust your style of management, work plant, or day-to-day systems.
What’s more, you may want to consider raising awareness about the importance of well-being in the workplace. To train your managers and people on recognising and addressing psychological hazards, provide them with useful resources to enhance their knowledge on the subject. And should they have any questions or concerns, be on hand to answer any queries they may have.
Unfortunately, not all risks can be eliminated, but you should always have plans in place to tackle any issue that may arise. To promote workplace safety and well-being, think about setting up support systems, such as employee assistance programmes and counselling services.
This way, workers can confidently share their worries and negative experiences with someone, and you – as a business – can take action accordingly. Don’t forget, though, to ensure your people are aware of these support systems and know how to access them.
Other tips to protect your people’s health
As well as taking measures to preserve the mental well-being of employees, it’s also crucial to look after their physical health. Specific industries come with manual and physical duties, and the welding sector is certainly one of them.
When working regularly with a wide range of metals and using high temperatures to fuse materials, accidents can happen when you least expect them to. So, it is vital to adhere to safety guidelines to ensure everyone is as protected as can be.
To avoid unwanted risks, here are some precautions to stick to at all times:
- Keep a clean workspace. Firstly, welding workplaces need to be as clean as possible. Welders use tools that emit high heat and radiation, so it is vital that their working area is free of clutter that might catch fire. Remove any flammable or combustible objects from the worksite, and store away anything else that might represent a hazard.
- Provide protective clothing. Welders need to be adequately geared. Protective equipment is the first line of defence against harmful things, such as sparks, glares, and UV radiation, which might cause burns or other serious injuries. As a welding business, make sure that your employees are always equipped with gloves, helmets, respirators, and aprons.
- Ventilation. While it would be ideal to carry out all welding operations outside, this isn’t always possible. If a welding project needs to take place indoors, you need to ensure that it happens in a well-ventilated room. Ventilating systems will protect workers from toxic fumes, smoke, and gases, which – if disregarded – can cause an array of respiratory illnesses.
- Educate employees on metals. There is a chance that welders, at times, may not know the ins and outs of the metals they are working with. Since each material has its own properties, it is crucial that employees are made aware of what potential risks and reactions are. Also, if they are using a new piece of equipment for the first time, encourage them to read through all the specification sheets, as the tool in question may operate differently from “older” versions. So, to avoid preventable injuries and health risks, all welders should be educated on the equipment and metals they are working with.