It’s essential that business owners prioritise the health and safety of their employees. Whatever the industry, employers have a duty of care to their workforce.
However, while employees are protected by the company they work for, self-employed workers are in a very different position. Unless they employ people, the self-employed are under no legal obligation to follow health and safety policies. This means that contractors and freelancers must manage their own safety wherever they are working.
For the self-employed, it’s important to know that some industries are more hazardous than others. While the safety of workers is always important, it’s especially the case where there is a greater risk to the health of employees, such as on construction sites or within industrial settings.
If you’re self-employed it’s important that you know what to do to keep yourself safe. Here is a look at the key areas to focus on to protect yourself during a typical workday.
Common workplace injuries
Before you look at how to protect yourself, it’s worth noting how common it is to be injured at work. Injuries do happen, regardless of strict health and safety measures that might be in place at the location you’re working at.
According to statistics from the Health and Safety Executive, annually between 2017/18 and 2019/20, 610,000 workers on average were injured in workplace accidents. A further 559,000 workers experienced a new case of ill health that they believed was caused or was made worse by their work.
In addition, slips, trips, and falls accounted for 29% of non-fatal injuries between 2019-2020 and almost a fifth (19%) of injuries in this period were caused by handling, carrying, or lifting.
Whether you’re office-based or work on a site, it’s important that you know the risks that your temporary workplace involves.
The company that hires you will know that under employment law, they have to protect your health and safety. This means that they must be satisfied that you can do the job you’re working on safely and without risk. In this case, you may be asked to show that you’ve carried out general health and safety training as part of your qualifications to work as a contractor.
However, while the employer that hires you will want to make sure you’re aware of the hazards in the workplace, you’re not obliged to follow the policies in place and you don’t have the protection from the company that permanent team members will have. Therefore, you’ll need to make sure that you understand that your safety is your responsibility and that you must be aware of what issues could arise.
Why managing health and safety is important
As a contractor, you’ll know that the implications of not being able to work for any reason can lead to financial issues. This is because you’re not entitled to sick pay as a self-employed worker. So, if you were to have an accident in the workplace and you were to be out of work for a while, you could find yourself experiencing money problems.
It’s in your best interest to ensure you understand the health and safety risks involved where you work in order to avoid accidents. While you’re not obliged to follow policies at the place you’re based at, it’s in your best interest to brush up on protocol and make yourself aware of the hazards and risks.
What PPE do you need?
As well as getting to grips with the policies in place, what PPE is required to do the job effectively? If you’re in an office, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to worry about this, but if you’re working in construction, for example, you will need to invest in good quality protective wear. Boots, overalls, eye shields and high-quality ear plugs are all things to consider when stocking up.
Assess the risks
What risks are there to be aware of in the workplace? You’ll need to carry out your own assessments whenever you start a new contract so that you can work out where the potential issues could arise. This can be anything from checking the equipment you’re using to ensuring you know where the fire assembly points are.
By taking the time to look at the health and safety procedures in place and taking the initiative, you’ll be able to keep yourself safe during your contract.