Health and Safety Not Just About Avoiding Physical Harm
When most people think about health and safety their first thought will nearly always be about the prevention of physical harm coming to a person which would be done to them as a result of something happening whilst they were performing a task in the workplace.
It can even be an incident which was in no way caused by that specific employee, but which they happened to be caught up in. Accidents and incidents can not only affect individuals situated where the incident occurred, but can also inflict harm on people over a large radius. Sometimes this area is greater than the entire workplace site, affecting the local community and members of the public of all ages. This highlights how health and safety is not just about individual workers keeping themselves out of harm, but also how their actions can have an effect upon others and how they therefore have a responsibility for preventing harm coming to others, and not just themselves.
As mentioned in the opening paragraph however, health and safety is not just concerned about physical harm - although this will be a significant element of it - but also covers the related issues of health and welfare.
The term 'health' is more of an umbrella term to describe the overall condition of a person. Whilst physical harm would cause damage, a person's health incorporates other factors aside from physical injury, such as their psychological and mental well-being, as well as physiological conditions and illnesses. Workplace activities, conditions and breaches in normal operations can all cause a situation which endangers a person's health.
When applied in a work sense, the welfare of employees concerns the availability of facilities which allow for and increase comfort and well-being, such as clean drinking water, toilet and washing facilities, rest areas and first aid provisions.
The Changing Role of Health and Safety Managers
Subsequent legislation introduced over the years recognised the needs of workers to have access to these welfare provisions since most were spending at least eight hours a day on the premises, with others there much longer. As a result, not only was health and safety concerned with preventing injury or illness caused by working with hazardous substances or in dangerous conditions, but now also demanded that employers ensure that these welfare provisions are made available for staff members.
In the last few years there has also been the introduction of tighter legislation regarding how companies affect the environment. This legislation seeks to prevent businesses damaging the environment through actions such as the disposal of hazardous substances into watercourses or releasing high concentrations/amounts of toxic emissions into the atmosphere for example.
As such the role of a health and safety manager will also more often than not incorporate environmental responsibilities into the list of expected duties. They will look to introduce environmental training to workers in order to make them more aware of the potential harm that can come to the environment as a result of them doing or not doing a certain actions(s), as well as implementing effective control measures to significantly minimise the potential for an incident to occur that causes damage to the environment on any scale.