Recently, I delivered an infection control course. At the start of the course, I asked what they knew about the topic and what they expected to gain from it. In a class of 12, only 1 had been trained on infection control so she had a good idea of what the course was about. The others thought I was going to tell them about food hygiene or pest control. And many of them had worked for years at the organisation carrying out tasks that exposes them to hazardous substances (body fluids and wastes). The human body, it’s fluids and wastes naturally contains bacteria so not protecting yourself when dealing with them is extremely risky.
As the training progressed, it became evident to me and the delegates that they were being exposed to hazards on a daily basis and they lacked support from their organisation so they suffered in silence and just got on with the job. Many of them liked the fact they were learning something new and that they had rights as employees but they were scared they wouldn’t be able to use their rights or the knowledge they had just gained. Why? They were scared to voice their concerns and felt that their organisation was not going to do anything to help their situation. Many of them complained that their organisation wasn’t providing them with personal protective equipment and even had to bring their own gloves. So due to lack of gloves, they used the same gloves for all customers. Talk about cross contamination! This was really shocking. All I could think was “in this time and age?!” But I was glad they went away with enough knowledge and little “power” to help them work safer and say “no” when they have to.
What really is the point of training if it cannot be applied especially if your organisation who has spent money sending you on training might not make changes and listen to your concern? Is it down to ignorance on the part of the organisation or they simply just don’t care? This experience coupled with my observations in previous sessions actually led me to write this article about your health and safety responsibilities as employers and employees.
Please train your employees and provide them with lots of information before exposing them to hazards. In the first week of their job, they need in depth induction highlighting the risks and hazards they could face in the job and how to keep themselves and those around them safe. Your procedures are not meant to be perfect but they should at least meet the minimum legal requirements and should be enough to protect your workers from harm and ill-health.