UNISON believes health and safety in the workplace is an issue for everyone. Every year, thousands of people suffer accidents and ill-health at work – most of which could be avoided.
As well as offering direct support at work and campaigning at a local and national level, UNISON produces a wide range of guidance documents which cover many health and safety issues. Some documents are available for members only.
No workplace is entirely risk free, but it is every employer’s responsibility to make sure that the potential for accidents at work is eliminated or minimised. You have the right to work in a safe environment, without unnecessary risk from accidents.
Drug, alcohol and substance misuse has serious implications for employees and their health, safety and performance in the workplace. And it is not only illegal drugs that cause problems at work. Legal ones, including prescription drugs and alcohol, can also be misused.
Back pain is extremely common and causes a significant number of work absences. Many UNISON members do jobs that involve a high risk of back injuries.
Many jobs involve working with computers for long periods of time. It is important that you sit in a way that does not cause back problems and take regular screen breaks to prevent eye strain.
Using computer monitors regularly can put a strain on your eyes. Your employer is obliged to create a safe working environment for you and minimise the risks of using visual displays.
First aid is emergency treatment given to an injured person before professional help is available. First aid treatment can save lives, so it is important that first aid is available in your workplace.
Reporting hazards in the workplace is important to keep everyone safe from harm. Your employer has a legal duty to carry out risk assessments and act on their findings. You can help by reporting any potential dangers. If your employer ignores you, you should speak to your UNISON safety rep.
You should not be asked to engage in lifting and carrying heavy or large loads without proper training. Loads can be objects, people or animals. Your UNISON representative can help you if you feel forced to perform manual handling tasks, or if you have been involved in a manual handling accident at work.
Health and safety legislation states that people who manage or own a business are responsible for protecting the health, safety and welfare of their workers . Access to occupational health services can help employers to do this. Such services can have play a major part in preventing ill health through work and in making sure employees are able to return to work as early as possible after being ill.
A risk assessment is the process of identifying what hazards exist, or may appear in the workplace. This includes judging which hazards are likely to cause harm to employees and other visitors.
Employers must, by law, prevent people from smoking at work if within an enclosed or substantially enclosed space or in certain vehicles. Employers should consult their employees and their UNISON representatives on the appropriate smoking policy to suit their particular workplace.
Working at height regulations are designed to prevent falls in the workplace and keep workers safe. Your employer must prevent you doing unnecessary work at height. If working at height is unavoidable, your employer must do a thorough risk assessment and provide suitable equipment and adequate training.
Working conditions covers areas such as space, temperature, lighting, ventilation, humidity and welfare facilities, including access to drinking water. The best way to improve your working conditions is to be aware of the law and the minimum standards that your employer should meet. Your UNISON rep can help to improve working conditions at your workplace.
Work-related upper limb disorders (WRULDs) is a collective term for a range of disorders of the hand, wrist, arm, shoulder and neck. It covers conditions with specific medical diagnoses (eg carpal tunnel) and other conditions often called repetitive strain injuries (RSI). WRULDs/RSIs may be caused by the tasks you perform at work but can usually be prevented with a good work environment, adequate training and by varying working positions and tasks.