How To Approach Your Employer About Unsafe Working Conditions

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Image from Flickr creative commons via Alan Cleaver

Health and Safety At Work laws don’t simply oblige employers to provide a safe working environment for their employees – they also place a duty on employees to report any conditions or practices where they work which they consider might contravene such laws.

That means that no employee should be afraid to raise their concerns. After all, the responsibility for ensuring that people can go about their day-to-day tasks without fear of being injured is best met by collaboration between workers and their bosses.

If you’re an employee and want to raise a concern about standards of safety, you are likely to have a couple of options, and the one which applies to you could well depend on the size of the organisation for which you work.

In a large company, there is an obligation to appoint a person to take charge of health and safety issues, and this person should be your first point of contact when you have a concern to raise. And no matter how senior they are, they have a legal duty to investigate your worries, then let you and all your colleagues know what they intend to do about the issue you have brought to their attention.

But the very fact that the person with such responsibility may also be the one who has direct authority over you might make you reluctant to raise your concerns for fear that you might be considered a ‘troublemaker’.

If this is a possibility, what you’ll need is evidence to back up your concerns. So rather than going in alone, a good idea is to tell as many of your colleagues as possible about your concerns, and ask them whether they’d be prepared to back you up.

In the absence of a nominated health and safety representative, in a medium-sized company, you should have someone with responsibility for administering first aid. This person might be a useful ally in you making your case, so have a quiet word with them, and see what they think about the situation with their ‘first-aider’s hat on’.

If you’re a trade union member, you should also speak to your workplace representative, as they will be prepared to support you when you make your representations to your bosses.

If you have little luck in getting your employer to change the unsafe working practice or conditions you complain about, you should first of all say that, if nothing is done you will report them to the local enforcement agency – in most cases the local city or county council, or unitary authority.

But at this stage, you may also want to approach a specialist solicitor, as they will be able to tell you more about the procedures for getting changes made which could help prevent an accident at work. Of course, it is always preferable to be able to do this without recourse to the law – but ultimately, the Health and Safety At Work Act is in place to ensure that everyone can enforce their right to go about their work in a place where the risks to them doing so safely are fully appreciated, and dangers are eliminated as far as possible.

A report of unsafe conditions or practices has to be taken seriously, so although the law is in place to back up anyone wishing to express concerns, a responsible employer will want to avoid any case getting that far, and so should investigate all issues thoroughly, and tell everyone what they do to address them.

SOURCES:

http://www.gloucester.gov.uk/Website/Health-and-Safety/Healthandsafetyatwork/Complaintsaboutunsafeworkingconditions.aspx

http://www.ehow.co.uk/how_2036893_report-unsafe-working.html

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Are You Missing An Opportunity To Sell Goods Through your Existing Website?

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Image from Flickr creative commons via kjarret

If you’ve been paying any attention at all to the various goings-on in the global retail industry over the last few years, you surely can’t have failed to notice that there has been a significant and sustained shift in the way many of us buy products. More and more people are choosing to buy goods and services online – and it isn’t hard to see why. For one thing, the internet has opened up a whole world of choice for consumers, enabling them to source products from all over the world at the click of a mouse or the touch of a button. The online retail revolution has completely changed the face of the worldwide retail industry, and it online shopping appears to be here to stay.

The sudden appearance and rapid growth of online retail has taken many bricks-and-mortar retail chains by surprise. The last few months have been dominated by reports of failing retail chains, hit hard by a combination of online retail and general weakness in consumer confidence. The Economist notes that some physical retailers have continued to perform reasonably well without establishing a major web presence – although it should be noted that these are generally prestigious retailers with an affluent clientele, leaving them well placed to weather the storm of e-commerce and sluggish consumer spending. Retailers and other businesses which are aiming at the lower end of the market often don’t have this kind of luxury.

Another major shift in consumer buying habits has come with the advent of mobile. A growing number of shoppers are using smartphone handsets and tablet computers not just to buy goods, but also to compare prices and conduct location-specific searches. In previous years, only a handful of consumers used mobile phones to make purchases, but the last couple of years have seen rapid growth in this area. It’s worth noting, then, that even retailers which do have a web presence may be missing out on sales if their website isn’t optimised for mobile. This is something which online retailers seriously need to be aware of, because those firms which adapt quickly to the needs of the mobile web could give themselves a crucial early-mover advantage over the competition.

While consumers have generally been more willing to buy online and via mobile in recent years, concerns about security still linger, particularly among older shoppers. It’s essential that if you’re running a business selling goods online, you make the effort to assuage consumers’ concerns. Of course, if you accept payment via debit or credit card, you’ll need an internet merchant account, so this is something else you’ll need to consider. As an article from eHow.com points out, it’s worth creating a shopping security plan so that consumers feel confident enough to purchase from your business. There are a number of different plans available, and thorough research can help you get a better idea of which one will be best for both your business and your consumers. Think about what sort of data you’ll be collecting from shoppers who buy goods using your website, and this should help you choose the appropriate security arrangements.

Top Tips for Keeping Workplace Kitchens Clean

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Image via Flickr creative commons from The Clovenhoof Society

If you’ve spent any length of time working in an office, you’ve probably noticed just how easy it is for people to rub one another up the wrong way. Looking from the outside in, some of the conflicts that flare up between office workers can seem exceptionally petty. It isn’t until you’re on the inside that you start to realise just how and why colleagues frustrate one another. One of the most common sources of workplace strife is the communal kitchen. While office kitchens are generally very useful and highly valued facilities, they can often be the scene of seemingly endless aggravation. This is why it’s important to take steps to ensure that your workplace kitchen remains clean. After all, it’s really just a basic question of showing respect and consideration for others.

An article from eHow.com observes that as storage space in communal kitchens tends to be somewhat limited, it makes sense for workers to ensure that they leave as little food there as possible. It might be tempting, but for the sake of workplace harmony if nothing else you should at least try to ensure that you don’t occupy too much space. You should ask yourself precisely how much food you actually need to take with you, and consider whether you can afford to take a little less. You should also avoid leaving strong-smelling items of food in the communal fridge. Make sure that the items you do leave in the fridge are unambiguously labelled.

It’s also essential that you clean up after yourself once you’re done. Don’t just leave plates and cups lying around for other people to deal with – this is simply ignorance. If you make a mess while you’re eating, make sure you clean it up. Keep a close eye for any stains, and ensure that they’re cleaned up as quickly as possible. The longer you leave it, the harder it’s likely to be to clean said stains. This is really just a matter of basic hygiene. Nobody wants to have to endure an unclean kitchen, and you probably wouldn’t approve if other people failed to uphold basic standards. You should therefore seek to uphold these standards yourself.

Another article from the Laurence Journal-World suggests that it could be a good idea to put someone in charge of overseeing goings-on in the kitchen. This needn’t necessarily mean micro-management, of course. Simply task someone with the responsibility of setting up a cleaning schedule and enforcing an agreed set of rules. This could help to defuse much of the tension that so often surrounds the issue of who’s actually responsible for cleaning up.

Also, if you know you’re likely to be out of the office for a few days – if, for example, you have a holiday planned – you should ensure that you don’t leave any food behind. If you do, not only is it likely to take up space which someone else could be using, but there’s also a chance that the food will start to turn bad before you return. This then leaves your colleagues to deal with the potentially thorny issue of whether or not to throw it away. It might also be worth asking catering equipment suppliers which types of kitchen equipment would be best suited to communal office usage.

SEO For Small Businesses

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Image from Flickr creative commons via Phillie Casablanca

Having an online presence is something that is critical for businesses of all sizes these days. Even in the last year or so, the spread of smartphones and tablet computers has had a major impact not only on the number of people who have access to the internet, but also on the way that they connect and where they do it from. Buying products and researching goods and services on the go is now second nature to many people, and thanks to our busy lives it is not difficult to understand why consumers want to make the most of what would otherwise be dead time, sitting on a bus or travelling home on the train after work.

As a result, having a strong internet presence and ranking well for keywords that are central to a business’ trade has become more important than ever. The techniques employed by digital marketing agency specialists differ, but there are some essential elements to constructing a search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy for a small business that will always feature strongly.

Strategy

Rather than diving head first into trying to rank for the most competitive terms out there, step back and consider what you are actually hoping to get from an SEO campaign. Different goals will require different approaches, naturally. For example, if your main aim is to sign people up to a mailing list then you might well take a different approach than if you already have plenty of traffic coming to your website but are struggling to turn visits into conversions.

Budget

Small firms are always going to be at a disadvantage against larger competitors who have far greater budgets to work with. That’s not to say that a small businesses cannot launch an effective SEO campaign though – simply that sole traders and partnerships will have to think carefully about how money is spent and what areas are targeted to maximise the return on investment.

Website design   

Getting the design of your site right is key. There is absolutely no point putting an SEO campaign into place to attract visitors to a website if they are likely to click away from the site immediately because of the way it looks. A good website will appeal to consumers, not drive them away and so the design of a site is always going to be a crucial element of a successful SEO strategy for small businesses. Likewise, a site also needs to be easy to navigate – if it looks great but a potential customer can’t actually work out how to contact the firm or buy a product then there’ll be trouble.

What’s right for the business?

Another important thing to get right is deciding on the approach that fits with the business. Many individuals who run their own firm are not only acting as managing director, but also as accountant, PA, packing department and customer service representative. Time is something that people running small businesses are short on, so launching a social media campaign that will require constant monitoring could well be a bad idea. In fact, if customers are trying to get in touch and are asking questions on social media and you are not answering them, this could well do more harm than good.