How should organisations consider left-handedness in their safety management systems? Four industry leaders offer their thoughts.
Alice Gundavda CMIOSH
Health, safety and wellbeing manager, Cumbria County Council
Hand dominance can have serious implications in performing tasks safely as well as maintaining psychological wellbeing. Organisations must involve employees directly in risk assessments, consider work tasks from an individual’s perspective, and make suitable ergonomic modifications. At the council, we conduct individual-level display screen equipment and remote working assessments; we also work closely with our occupational health team if specialist referrals are required. Employers must identify discrimination affecting left-handed employees and deal with this appropriately through manager training.
Andy Hooke CMIOSH
Health and safety consultant, WorkNest
Although left-handed people make up only around 10% of the world’s population, we must still consider hand dominance when designing workplace ergonomics. Engagement with workers who are left-handed is the most obvious and effective way of achieving this – just ask! Although many pieces of office equipment are now available in a left-hand format, it becomes more difficult when we look at large pieces of machinery and specialist equipment. Organisations need to look at how workstations can be set up ergonomically to accommodate this, ideally at the design stage. Colour-coded controls, to avoid confusion while
in use, may also help.
Fraser Morrison CMIOSH
Director and health and safety consultant, M2 Safety Consultants Ltd
Organisations are duty bound to provide the necessary training and information regarding the use of tools and equipment. During training, whether that be formal, in-house or on-the-job training, any issues identified by a person who is predominantly left-handed should be raised and the organisation make suitable changes or adaptations to ensure that safe use of equipment can be achieved. Work with the employee, not against them.
Organisations should allow feedback and suggestions for improvement so changes can be made not only to make the workplace safer and more adaptable for the individual but also to improve an open and transparent business culture.
Brett S Edkins CMIOSH
Head of health and safety, London Projects
Hand dominance will need to be considered whenever a required process, material or mechanical engagement is not inherently ambidextrous. I don’t believe widespread incorporation of an ambidextrous approach has become fundamental, partly because left-handedness is attributable only to approximately 10% of the population.
Manufacturers continue to strive for ambidextrous interfaces, controls and so on – but provided companies continue to stay cognisant of the fact and assess where this may have impact, everyone within a workforce can be catered for and cared for.