Safety and health hazards refers to those elements in an environment (could be work place or in the community) which pose danger and can cause harm to the health and safety of those who are exposed to them (Confer, 1999). These are things which threaten the safety and health of people if not controlled. In work places, hazards could be environmental which includes pollution in terms of noise, release of toxic gases amongst others, physical hazards such as collisions and falls of workers, falling objects and electricity, biological hazards such as fungi and bacteria invasion an d finally chemical hazards whose agents are acids, bases, solvents and any other reactive chemicals. There also are psychological hazards such as work stress. When the mentioned elements are not controlled they become a hazard (Ladou, 2006).
Importance of Applying safety measures at Work Place.
Employing and applying safety measures at a work place is very important to the government, the employees and the employer. Good safety measures prevent careless accidents from happening that could result to injuries, permanent disability or even death of the employees. Applying safety measures at work place hence helps protect the health and life of the workers. It also is important for the employers as it enables them to prevent financial loses which are usually incurred in terms of compensation to the affected employees, paying the legal fee and fines by the government in the event that they are found to be neglecting the implementation of occupational and safety measures that is a requirement by the government (Confer, 1999).
The employers are able to save on time that is usually wasted investigating the incidents. It also prevents loss of employees who may be very valuable to the company in terms of skills, experience and talent. Some accidents may cause a lot of damage to machines and equipment, applying safety measures enables the company to avoid such losses which directly translates to reduction in production. Moreover, the employer is able to sustain the goodwill of his employees and the community at large as they operate, work and live under safe conditions. This is good for the image of the company which is an important aspect of marketing and hence sale (Roughton, 2002).
Applying safety measures at the work place also is important to the government as it helps in cutting the cost spent in paying social security to the affected employees, the medical treatment costs. The government is also able to reduce loss of working citizens who contribute to the economy of the country.
Who is involved with safety and Health?
Safety and health involves several parties. First there is the employers who are charged with the responsibility of ensuring that all their employees and anyone visiting are protected from the hazards ( Martin & Walters, 2001).They do this by ensuring that the work place environment is safe through proper lighting, ventilation and temperature, providing the first aid kits and facilities, providing protective clothing, inform people of the potential hazards, provide the right equipment and machines and ensure that they function well and many others (Boyd, 2003).Above everything, the employers have the responsibility of providing the safety health measures manuals to their employees and training them on how to handle the facilities in the company.
Employees are also involved with safety and health. It is their responsibility to follow instructions given on how to operate the different equipment and machines so as to avoid accidents that could harm them. They also have to grasp the safety and health measures guidelines that are usually included in manuals provided by the employer. The government is involved with safety and health by providing legal protection to employees so as to ensure that they work under safe conditions. It also carries out assessments and investigations to ensure that employers have implemented safety and health measures and meet the required standards (Directgov, 2009).
Governmental Responses to Safety and Health Problems
The United States government responded to safety and health problems by enacting the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 which created the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). These two governmental bodies were created to develop and enforce workplace safety and health regulations amongst employers.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a body that has the responsibility of regulating occupational safety and health in the country. OSHA is an agency of the United States labour department and its root objective is to prevent injuries, illness and deaths that are work related by issuing standards for work place safety and health. The OSHA standards are basically rules and regulations that have been set up by the labour agency to ensure that e4mployers comply with them in order to provide a safe and conducive environment to their employees. These regulations generally ensure that the employers identify potential dangers to the employees and the surrounding community and eliminate them (Mintz, 1984).
OSHA carries out work place inspections to ensure that the employers comply with the standards issued by the labour agency for safe and healthy workplaces. They also ensure that the General Duty Clause of the Act is not violated by employers. This clause gives every employee irrespective of their gender the right to be provided for a safe and healthy workplace. These inspections are usually impromptu meaning that employers are not given advance notice. However, there are times when OSHA gives a notice which usually is less than twenty four hours. Examples of these special situations include when the inspections must be carried out after the regular working hours hence need to inform the employer not to close down and when there has been an accident and the employer notifies them to come, when there is a dangerous situation that needs to be corrected urgently. The employers have to inform their employee’s and other concerned parties and arrange for the OSHA inspectors to carry out their task. Any employer who refuses to admit OSHA officials to his company, attempts to frustrate or tries to interfere with the inspection has legal action taken against them (Mintz, 1984).
The OSHA inspections are usually carried out following some prioritized list. Situations that pose imminent danger are usually given the first priority, in the event that a compliance officer notes a dangerous situation that could cause death or serious injuries to the employees, he asks the employer to stop exposing the employees to the danger by removing them or shutting down until the danger is eliminated. Refusal to comply by the employer results to legal action being taken against him. The second priority is fatal accidents. The Act requires that an employer reports any accident that causes serious injury or death of an employee to OSHA within eight hours. This is done so that the officials can come to investigate to determine if the OSHA standards were violated and the action to be taken (Wang, 1993).
The third priority of OSHA is employee complains and referrals. Under the act employees have the right to call OSHA officials to come and investigate the safety and health conditions of their working place in the event they feel the employer is violating the standards or are exposed to danger. OSHA usually maintains confidentiality in such situations to protect the complainant from victimization by the employer. OSHA then asks the employer to make any adjustments if there is need to (Mintz, 1984).
The fourth priority is the programmed investigations in the industries and workplaces that according to OSHA procedures and previous investigations have been identified as having high hazards. These are workplaces which have high injury rates, and work related deaths or have the employees exposed to toxic substances. The investigation in such industries is more comprehensive and usually OSHA has emphasis programmes developed for these high hazard industries. Last on the list is the follow up investigation which is ensure that the employers have corrected the mistakes that had been noticed earlier. In the event that the employer fails to correct the cited violations of the Act, OSHA carries out the penalties until the violation is corrected.
OSHA Record keeping and Reporting.
OSHA records all work related deaths, injuries and illnesses that require hospitalization. This information is gotten during the investigations and reports made by employers. OSHA then does the computations and sends an annual report to the workplaces.
OSHA also keeps records of identified hazards during its inspections and the actions taken to correct them they investigate all employee accidents and determine the causes. OSHA then records and documents the corrective measures taken to reduce the risks that cause these accidents. Also recorded are the employees complaints, the investigative process and the action taken to address the tabled complain. The OSHA officials then report their findings to the employees and he employers. The employers are required by the act to avail the reports to their employees (Wang, 1993).
Organizational Responses to Safety and Health Issues.
- a) Department of HSE
Today most organizations acknowledge the pressure to comply to with the rules and regulations pertaining safety and health issues. These organizations are looking for ways that will help them reduce compliance cost and avoid damages to their image. They are also looking for ways that will help reduce the risk of litigation. In order to address this need, the organisations have created HSE Management Departments. The responsibility of whose responsibility this department is to ensure that the organizations comply with the safety and health regulations. HSE designs safety measures and preventive approaches to take in order to help reduce the number of accidents at the work place. HSE department does research on the standards required for safety and health in a work place and takes the necessary actions needed for the organization to meet these standards (Health And Safety Executive.., 1994).The department writes down safety plans on how to meet the standards required.
The HSE investigates and reports accidents that occur in a workplace to the labour agency bodies such as OSHA. The department also carries out training on safety and health measures to the employees. It brings inspiration in an organization by allowing best practices to be shared within the different departments of the organization. Safety meetings are usually called by the department to report their investigation findings, to train the employers on safety measures and to consult with the management on any proposal they might have (Health And Safety Executive.., 1994).
- b) The Role of the Human Resource Department
The human resource of any organization has the responsibility of ensuring that it offers a safe and healthy workplace to its employees (Schneid, 1998). This is not just so as to meet the regulations stipulated by the government but also for its own good. Safe workplaces always increase the productivity of an organization and keep it competitive as it helps it avoid the already discussed problems. The human resource department performs this role by offering training and motivation programmes to its employees amongst others (Roughton, 2002). The human resource does this by employing occupational safety and health officers who are in charge of the issue in the organizations.
The human resource also has the responsibility of paying compensation and benefits to employees and their families in the event that serious injuries or death that is workplace related occur. Usually companies have their employees covered by insurance policies so as they do not carry the burden single handedly. The human resource is required by the safety and health regulations to report any accidents and deaths so that an investigation can be carried out by the enforcement officials. They are required by the law to pay compensation to affected employees (Charney, 1999).
List of Reference
Boyd, C. (2003). Human resource management and occupational health and safety. New York, NY, Routledge.
Charney, W. (1999). Handbook of Modern Hospital Safety. Boca Raton, FL, CRC Press.
Confer, T. (1999). Occupational Health and Safety: Terms, Definitions, and Abbreviations
Boca Raton, FL, CRC Press.
Directgov. (2009). Employees’ Health and Safety Responsibilities. Retrived on 11th April 2009 from <http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/HealthAndSafetyAtWork/DG_4016683>
Friend, M. (2007). Fundamentals of Occupational Safety and Health. Rockville, Maryland, Government Institutes.
Ladou, Joseph (2006). Current Occupational & Environmental Medicine (4th Edition ed.). McGraw-Hill Professional.
Martin, W.F. & Walters, J. (2001). Safety and Health Essentials for Small Businesses. Oxford, Butterworth-Heinemann.
Mintz, B. W. (1984). OSHA: History, Law, and Policy. Washington DC, BNA Books.
Roughton, James (2002). Developing an Effective Safety Culture: A Leadership Approach. Oxfordshire, Butterworth-Heinemann.
Schneid, T. (1998). Occupational Health Guide to Violence in the Workplace. Boca Raton, FL, CRC Press.
Wang, C. K. (1993). OSHA Compliance and Management Handbook. Berkshire, Noyes Publications.
Health And Safety Executive, Health And Safety Executive Staff. (1994). Working With Vdus. Norwich, HSE Books.