Don’t get burnt!
Matt Littleboy, SDA WH&S OFFICER
It is estimated that workers aged between 15 and 24 years have a much greater risk of being injured at work than workers from all other groups. Also, if it’s your first or a new job, then you’re at even greater risk.
Many young employees receive injuries at work that they think are a normal part of working life.
This is just plain wrong!
For example, if you work in the fast food industry, how many times have you gone home with lots of little oil burns on your arms? Have you slipped over and hurt yourself on a hard floor after it’s been mopped?
These injuries may seem minor at the time, but they do add up.
You may have permanent scarring of your arms from burns, or a strain caused by a fall may have long-term effects as you get older.
Manual handling is a major part of a worker’s job in the retail/fast food industry. Young workers are more likely to be injured through manual handling than older workers, as their bodies are still developing and less able to cope with strain.
It is the employer’s responsibility to provide their employees with safe work procedures and equipment, instruction, training and supervision for manual handling tasks.
Slippery surfaces in your workplace can often be found in cool rooms, freezers, deli and storage areas etc. Some floor surfaces can be treated to reduce the risks of slips and falls. Good workplace layout and design can reduce the risk of injuries.
Mechanical equipment should be guarded to protect you from the moving parts of machines. Your employer should provide you with training and supervision to operate all machinery safely.
Your employer is responsible for ensuring that your workplace is safe and healthy but there are things you can do to improve your workplace which will prevent injury to you and your workmates.
The first step
The first thing to do is to look around you and work out what might cause an injury. This could include hazards like slippery floors, bare electrical wiring or lack of barriers between you and hot oil, and not knowing how to operate machinery properly.
The hierarchy of controlling hazards
- When a hazard has been spotted, the next step is to make sure it doesn’t harm workers. The best protection for workers is to try and stop the problem from happening in the first place. All attention should be directed towards the source of the problem. This makes common sense because if the problem can be eradicated then it is gone for good.
- If the problem cannot be fixed at the source then the next best option could be changing the way the job is done, training you in the proper way to do a task, or providing you with protective clothing (this is a last option only if a better way of dealing with the hazard cannot be found).
Many years ago, employees were paid ‘danger money’ as a way of coping with the hazard. Thankfully, we have all seen the stupidity of this remedy. For example, should workers receive ‘danger money’ for working with slippery and greasy floors or do we offer constructive solutions to employers with the expectation of fixing the problem? You decide.
So keep an eye out for problems and remember any injury, no matter how minor it seems at the time, is one injury too many.
You are not alone
The union conducts accredited Occupational Health and Safety training, free workers’ compensation advice and regularly provides professional advice on the job.
For further information, please ring the union office.