Module 8a - Safety for the employee

Safety means having foresight, being alert and completing proper fault reports. To avoid damage to employees, machines or products, everyone has to pay careful attention.

Of course, the relevant safety precautions must be visible in the workplace for all involved. Aside from this, one of the best ways to prevent damage is to be able to understand work processes in their whole, and assess risks. The more people are awake and attentive, the greater chances are of avoiding accidents.

The employee isn't alone in the world. There are other people, who are part of the working process, and will use the same machines and equipment after the employee is done.

Being alert means also being able to predict damage to oneself or others. Therefore, it is important to:
  • report damages immediately
  • report faults immediately
  • alert authorities immediately
It can feel embarrassing to report damage. In order to ensure improvement, the apprentice has to learn from the beginning:
  • to follow internal procedures for fault and damage reporting
  • to think of colleagues
  • to have foresight
 Personal protective equipment
Fortunately, many damages can be prevented or be made less serious with personal protective equipment.

It is the safety steward's job to find the right protective equipment in your workplace.

Check also international websites for more information: For example, rules for using technical aids, workplace risk assessment, work with chemicals and materials, etc.

Example: haulage contractor company: they stress the importance of drivers using:
  • Work gloves
  • Safety shoes
  • Fluorescent safety vests in terminal areas or driving in foreign countries (in twilight and dark, poor visibility, accidents on the roads)
  • Masks and rinsing fluid (for example, in handling of paint)
 Typical risks
Typical risks are found in all workplaces. Experienced and competent employees work around them instinctively. They may not even think of pointing them out.

When you learn something new, it is hard to tell the difference between very important things and less important things.

One of the very most important things is to be aware of classic risks.

Many solutions to these risks have been found: personal protective equipment, special safety controls, warning lamps, signs, etc.

Each country has official bodies that take care of trade-specific regulations, such as safety in the use of chemicals at work etc.

Click here for The International Labor Organanisation ILO’s programme on safety and health at work and the environment. 

But a very important safety precaution is still to be foresightful, alert and well-prepared.
 Working conditions
Every workplace has its own specific work conditions that can stress the employee and may cause an accident. Such as:
  • High level of time pressure
  • Weather conditions
  • Varying shift work, work at night
  • Contact with chemicals (dangerous goods)
  • High level of concentration required
  • Static work postures
Which are the most demanding work conditions in your company? The apprentice has probably learnt about the trade’s conditions at school, but probably he / she does not know what “real life” looks like.

Point out the seriousness of these conditions to the apprentice and tell him/her how to tackle them.
 Handling day-to-day pressure and stress
Many people experience that things are going faster and faster today. The apprentice needs to learn to handle:
  • day-to-day work pressure
  • stress and panic situations
Work pressure in daily work will most likely feel harder for the apprentice in the beginning than for an experienced employee. Everything is new, and the apprentice doesn't yet have a feel for the work to be done.

He/she still has to think about things and therefore gets tired more easily. - Give the apprentice time and increase work pressure slowly.

Stress can be both positive and negative. Positive stress gives an adrenaline "kick". Negative stress, especially over long periods, is often due to the apprentices feelings of not being able to live up to expectations.

In a number of trades, stress is the biggest cause of damage and accidents. Teach the apprentice to:
  1. practice keeping calm
  2. recognize when he/she is starting to feel stress
  3. find his/her own methods to relax again in the job situation, when he/she is stressed
"Take care of your body!" - The apprentice needs to be able to last for many years in the trade. Just like other employees, the apprentice risks getting a "work-related disease". This is "a disease that has arisen after a longer period of influence by work or the conditions under which the work takes place".

The trainer should make the apprentice aware of:
  • Working posture
  • Heavy lifts
  • Stress of repetitive movements
  • Ways of prevention
  • Necessary breaks
  • Use of aids
  • Suitable shoes and appropriate work wear
The trainer's job
Check whether the apprentice has learnt about ergonomy at school. The company might have to offer a course or personal equipment, and other employees may also have to refresh their knowledge.

Don't just tell the apprentice about it.

Demonstrate appropriate work postures, observe the apprentice and correct if necessary!

Check again after a period of time!
 Health and nutrition
Everyone knows that poor nutrition, smoking and lack of exercise are health hazards. And many would probably agree that more could be done at workplaces to improve health. It has become well-known that healthy food and conscious nutrition contributes to efficiency and precision at work. But, in many trades, your lunch is still your own business.

Sometimes, it's easiest and fastest to grab some fast food.

Education can help change the food culture in your trade in a positive way.

Maybe your trade union, chamber of trade or vocational college offers courses or guidance to promote a healthy diet.

Comment from a driver instructor, Denmark:
"Most drivers smoke. It is a part of the culture in the trade, and no one complains. You don't meddle in each other's affairs. It would be good to talk about it, because many drivers are way too overweight. They sit a lot, don't move much and eat unhealthy food. That isn't healthy".

As a consequence, the Danish trade union 3F has, together with the transport employers association and with support from the transport education fund, published a small easy cookbook for drivers with tips for “parking place cooking”.

Example Turkey
Unhealthy life styles have changed for bus drivers. Though they still often are heavy smokers while travelling, there is a growing awareness of eating regularly in registered restaurants on the route.
The new apprentice has to last for many years in the trade. This requires more than professional skills, good wages and safety.

It's also important to have a social life, on the job and outside. A good social life can give personal satisfaction and happiness.

‘Work-life-balance’ is more than a vogue expression. It is something that we can help create and maintain. And it's something the trainer can bring into the training:
  • The tone between colleagues, customers and suppliers.
  • Attentiveness to each other.
  • How are breaks used at work?
  • How do you get work and private life to fit together?
The policies for health insurance and social security vary from EU country to EU country, such as rights and rules for retirement.

This is probably an issue in your company, too. It is not too early to discuss this with young people in education.

Example Frode-Laursen A/S, Denmark, driver instructior 'Bingo'
"To a certain degree, the drivers can decide which shift to work. Not everyone can handle night shift driving. Some like night driving best. Others have to fit work into a life with small children. A sure way of holding on to people, is that everyone is satisfied with what they do!"

8 - Safety and working climate