Occupational Health and Safety
Occupational health and safety is a fairly wide-ranging term which relates to illnesses or disorders which are caused or triggered by workplace activities. This is not necessarily limited to the activities the person themselves does, but also encompasses the activities of people in the workplace which could have an impact on others, with regards to health and safety and potential hazards.
Workplaces are notoriously dangerous places, with an infinite number of potential hazards and risks to health, such as:
- Contact with chemical and harmful substances (COSHH)
- Falling or dropping an object whilst working at height
- Contact with sharp objects and implements
- Fire risk and explosions
- Slips, trips and falls
The above list is just a fraction of the potential health and safety risks that can face workers every day. A sufficient risk assessment will identify the most likely risks and allow management to put in place suitable controls in order to eliminate or, more likely, reduce the chances of the incident occurring to as low as reasonably possible.
Health and safety in the workplace is taken into consideration for three reasons: Moral, legal and financial.
The moral reasons for occupational health and safety centre around the notion that managers have a duty to have a healthy and happy workforce, and can be traced back to Victorian times when factory owners would provide facilities and protection for their workers long before it was required to do so by law. The reasoning is that a healthy and happy workforce will be more productive, as well as having less time off sick or injured, and reduced levels of staff turnover which can be disruptive to production. This overlaps with the financial reasoning for occupational health and safety.
From a financial viewpoint, accidents in the workplace can have a severe impact. Firstly, the business may be fined for failing to comply with any applicable health and safety legislation (see legal reasons below). Along with fines, any injured workers (or in extreme cases, the family of workers killed in the workplace) may also sue for compensation. Accidents such as explosions may also damage equipment or the building itself, which will cost money to repair or replace. Whilst the building and contents may be insured, it is likely to push up premiums in the future.
There are also costs which are not immediately obvious in the aftermath of an accident, along with lost revenue which can be classified as a cost; even though the company does not have to pay any money out, it will bring less in. Employees who are off work through illness or injury will receive sick pay (depending on your specific country's legislation). Having absent workers means lower output, or, if you wish to maintain output levels, temporary workers will need to be recruited to cover for the absent employees, which will cost money for extra wages and any recruitment costs. It may even take more than one temporary worker to achieve the same output level as the one regular employee as this person will be experienced in the role and likely to work faster and more efficiently than somebody coming in to cover on a temporary basis.
Effective health and safety training such as COSHH training, and health and safety qualifications like the NEBOSH National Diploma and NEBOSH Fire Safety Certificate, combined with comprehensive risk assessments and suitable health and safety policies, can greatly reduce the chances of workplace accidents occurring. Whilst the risk of accidents can never be fully eliminated, with proper attention to occupational health and safety issues and control procedures, the risk can be significantly reduced in order to comply with legislation and have a healthy, happy and highly-motivated workforce.
Simple Tips for Occupational Health and Safety Success
For any business to be capable of managing itself in the right manner, it needs to be able to hit certain goals and objectives along the way. This includes safety, and falls under what is known as occupational health and safety. It's an absolute must for any business that wishes to move forward in the right manner.
Many workplaces are under par in terms of their safety procedures, and this is something that has to definitively change for a business to be recognised amongst its peers and customers.
A good occupational health and safety team will be able to:
1) Provide a comprehensive process that ticks all of the boxes for that specific industry. A business that makes wooden furniture, for example, will follow a different health and safety procedure and enact different safeguards to those who make chemicals and pesticides. There has to be a unique structure in place for each and every business.
2) Likewise, there has to be a level of accountability throughout the business. It's not just something for the management team to worry about; it's something that even the newest members of staff need to think about and consider seriously. If needed, there has to be some kind of program involved to make sure people are not going to shirk their responsibilities or potentially jeopardise the health and safety of colleagues and customers.
3) Reach and maintain a level of performance, and a measurement that comes with a basis for incremental and continued improvement throughout the organisation over a previously agreed period of time. This is vital for long-term growth and development, and will play a key role in a business becoming more aware and more capable of preventing and dealing with major issues.
4) Negotiate and implement a strong financial process to ensure that resources are available for health and safety including training and protective equipment. Safety for everyone should come before anything else, even new marketing campaigns that could prove to be very profitable.
The Importance of Continuous Health and Safety Training
To get to this stage, a business needs to go through some form of consistently updated and improved occupational health and safety programme with their staff. It needs to start on day one, and only finish on the day that they leave; it's never too late to start training and changing mindsets.
Make sure that you cover all of the basics at all times - you never know what someone might forget in the most important moment. There is far more to health and safety than just maintaining your reputation and your license - it's about protecting people. Put these practices in place within your business, and health and safety becomes second nature.