It’s very easy to believe that workplace safety regulations are restrictive and time-consuming and could possibly lower productivity in the workplace. It’s equally straightforward to assume that having to follow a precise procedure, or filling in a risk assessment form before completing a task, might slow things down. But in actual fact, if you look at the bigger picture, it becomes clear that the opposite is in fact true.
For example, an office employee wants to move a large stand-alone photocopier to the other side of the room. According to procedure, he should call the maintenance department and have them move it, but he thinks it’s quicker just to unplug it and move it himself. He unplugs the photocopier and eases it across the floor, but it’s heavier than he thought, and he hurts his back manoeuvring it. He eventually gets it across the room, but when he plugs it in, there’s a problem and it doesn’t work. Now his back hurts; he needs medical attention and may be off work for a few days, or quite possibly even longer. Meanwhile his work colleagues are left without a working photocopier simply because he didn’t follow the correct procedure. Even though it was a very simple scenario and in many other cases everything would have been fine, in this particular instance it would have been more productive to have the maintenance department move it for him.
In many workplaces, there is a requirement to wear personal protective equipment before using certain equipment. You may have to perform preparatory tasks that seem unnecessary or overly cautious – but workplace safety regulations are put in place to reduce risk. Often the procedure for a particular task has been put in place by a person or team who have looked at the possible risks as well as the time it takes. They will have put together a procedure that makes the task as safe as possible, but also moves as quickly as possible. By following the correct procedure, we often find that although we think it would be quicker to do away with the health and safety aspect, actually by following a set order each time, we can be more productive – as well as avoiding time taken to deal with unnecessary injuries if procedures are not followed correctly.