Keeping People Safe from Harm
Health and Safety Training to Avoid Harm
The whole intention and purpose of providing health and safety training, and placing an emphasis upon safety in the workplace, is to keep people safe from harm. This not only includes the direct part-time and full-time employees of the company, but also other groups of people. For instance, visitors on the premises such as inspectors or those coming for a meeting, as well as everybody who happens to be living and working in the immediate vicinity, can be adversely affected if an accident were to occur.
The Characteristics of the Incident will Determine How Many and to What Extent People are Affected
Quite how they will be affected depends upon the nature of the incident. A fire for example can quickly spread from its starting location to neighbouring properties, causing extensive damage from flames and smoke over a wide area. Similarly, the release of toxic gases or chemicals can also have an effect over a large radius. Both hazards can have extremely serious consequences for anybody unfortunate enough to be caught up in it. Fires not only have the heat and burn risk from the flames, but smoke inhalation can be harmful to the body and even cause death by asphyxiation if a person is unable to evacuate a building in time. Hazardous substances can cause death, injury or ill-health if they are inhaled, ingested or come into contact with the skin. The enormous range of chemicals, fumes and other hazardous substances which exist means that there is an equally diverse range of consequences that can happen to people, animals and plant life.
Health and Safety Training Reduces the Chance of Incidents
By providing thorough and regular health and safety training to staff members, a company can reduce the chances of such an occurrence taking place. Employees who are well educated in how to work safely and correctly are less likely to perform an action (or not do something) which would ultimately lead to an incident in which somebody gets hurt. No amount of health and safety training will be able to totally eliminate every single risk, but a well-trained workforce will be far more competent in identifying potential dangers and taking appropriate action to prevent an incident occurring.
Nearly all countries around the world have laws and regulations in force which place a legal responsibility upon the managers and directors of a company to take certain steps and actions to prevent harm coming to anybody directly or indirectly connected to the business. As mentioned earlier, this even includes people who simply happen to be in the area who would be affected by an incident on the premises (e.g. major explosion or toxic gas release). Aside from the legal duties, the vast majority of those in charge of companies accept that they also have a moral responsibility for keeping their fellow human beings safe from being killed, injured or suffering an illness as a result of working for them.
Escorting Visitors for their Safety
Visitors to a place of work are typically amongst the most vulnerable groups in terms of coming to harm. This is because they will not have a detailed knowledge (and possibly none whatsoever) of the company's health and safety features such as the location of emergency exits and assembly points. Also, whilst businesses should be aware of any special assistance that certain staff members will require in the event of an emergency, they may not be aware of any such requirements needed by visitors if they are not informed.
A typical risk that involves visitors is caused by them moving around the site. When they are not fully aware of the dangers or the rules and procedures which are in place on the premises, they could end up getting into a situation which poses a risk to both their own health and safety and that of other people around them. In this case, visitors may need escorting for the safety of themselves and that of everyone else.
Certain areas of the site may be much more dangerous than others. For example, a visitor may end up walking through an area where a lot of forklift trucks are being driven. Regular employees should be well-trained in where they can and cannot walk, the mandatory wearing of high visibility jackets etc, but a site visitor may be ignorant of these requirements and just wander through blissfully unaware of the dangers. Not only can the person themselves be seriously injured or possibly killed from a collision, the driver or others nearby may also suffer the same fate if the driver has to swerve out of the way and ends up hitting either other people or a solid object such as a wall or metal post.
Why Would a Visitor Be In A Dangerous Location?
There are a number of reasons for a person getting into a dangerous area of the business, even one in which they are not authorised to be in. They could be lost, they could be trying to find a shortcut from one area to the next, or they may just be plain nosy and want to see what happens in this off-limits area.
Whatever the reason is though, the risks do not change. Consequently it is good practice for a trustworthy and knowledgeable regular employee to escort visitors from one location to the other. Not only will they be able to guide them safely, but they will also keep an eye on them to stop them wandering into a restricted area. Young people on work experience or visiting on an educational trip are highly vulnerable as they will also lack the experience of how dangerous the workplaces of certain industries in general can be.
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.
Keeping people and the environment safe from harm is one of the most important tasks that those in charge of a company have. It is vitally important that managers always keep health and safety at the forefront of their minds whenever they make a decision. Even when trading conditions are tough, safety measures should never be sacrificed or temporarily bypassed just for the sake of profit.