The last reported numbers showed that there were 4.5 million paid and unpaid internships available throughout Europe. Each year, students and recent graduates work in these roles across industries to enhance their chances of one day landing an ideal position. While much of the work performed in these roles is safe, dangerous and stressful situations can arise at any company. Despite feeling uncomfortable about possible confrontation, it is better to address situations that are putting your health and safety at risk. If you encounter a situation like this, it's helpful to be armed with some strategies to help you navigate the challenges.
Report safety issues immediately
One recent survey revealed that the majority of workers “are confident that their job does not put their health or safety at risk.” However, those in voluntary work, internships, part-time positions and full-time positions continue to experience injuries on a regular basis. Even though it may feel easier not to report potential or existing safety issues, it is essential that you do this immediately. Whether the problem is harming your health or not, speaking up about safety concerns is always worth it. No concern is too small. If, for example, you notice mould in your workplace, you will absolutely want to take action to prevent health consequences. Since mould exposure can rapidly lead to skin irritation and upper respiratory problems, issues like this should not be ignored. The best first step is to work with the appropriate manager or department to ensure that a solution is found. If you find something much more urgently dangerous, be sure to keep your co-workers away from the issue, and seek immediate assistance.
Discuss ongoing interpersonal issues with your HR department
In a study conducted in 2017, a reported one in three people said that they were likely to quit in the near future because of a co-worker they did not like. Whether working in a small, medium or large group, it isn’t uncommon to find quarrelling and frustration between co-workers. Even in a voluntary gap year internship, or in a paid internship that you are working in after university, you may find yourself facing unpleasant individuals. While many of these situations are recognised as a simple annoyance, it is crucial to recognise when an individual’s behaviour is affecting your health. If one or more staff members are bullying you on a frequent basis, or breaking any employment laws, speak with your HR department right away. You should never have to experience the physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety or depression based on the actions of someone at your internship.
Learn effective techniques to cope with stress
On occasion, there will be internships that turn out to be much more stressful than the role requirements originally described. If you find yourself stressed out more often than not, your health could be at risk. Chronic stress can lead to headaches, digestive problems, fatigue, decreased immune system and insomnia. To combat daily internship stress, develop coping techniques that work for you. This can include meditation, therapy, increased exercise, deep breathing or a more rigorous self-care routine.
Although there are many effective ways to address safety and health issues at your internship, some workplaces may unfortunately move forward without correcting specific problems. If you continue to find that your health or safety is put at risk despite following these tips, you may need to consider leaving your internship for another opportunity.