Introduction to safety and health at work.

Concerned with identification and control of hazards associated with the physical workplace environment. Workplace hazards can range technological, physical, chemical agents and psychological.

The course is a direct response to the recognition that many deaths, injuries and  illnesses occur because of safety violations, poor equipment design, negligence, and the presence of factors which lead to occupational maladjustment

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely an absence of diseases.

The managers of today are increasingly finding themselves engaged in one of society’s greatest challenges i.e. the design and maintenance of a work organization that is both effective in meeting business objectives as well as healthy and safe for its employees.

Until recently, the attitude of managers and employees towards accidents and safety was not seen to promote a healthy or safe work place.

Work place health and safety is an under researched area of HRM and it is not until recently that a significant shift of mood has been witnessed towards the subject

Why study work place health and safety under HRM?

  1. The rising costs associated with workplace injuries need to the addressed.
  2. If strategic HRM is to have meaning, it must encompass the development and promotion of a set of health and safety policies to protect the organizations most valued asset i.e. its employees.
  3. The employer has a legal duty to maintain a healthy and safe workplace, the health and safety function being directly related to organizational outcomes.
  4. There is decreasing tolerance for work related hazards in organization e.g. smoking.
  5. There is a growing recognition that health and safety forms an important subgroup of organizational factors affecting Human Resource Management.

HRM activities connected to health and safety

A number of core HR functions are directly linked to occupational health and safety. They include;

Health and safety consideration and policy can affect the selection process in two ways:

Recruitment and selection

  • During the recruitment process, potential applicants are more attracted to an organization that has a reputation for offering a healthy and safe environment for its employees.
  • The maintenance of a healthy and safe workplace can be facilitated in the selection process by choosing applicants with personality traits that decrease the likelihood of accidents.


Performance management

Proper maintenance health and safety can be enhanced through performance management function in the following ways;

  1. Incorporating the safety records of individual employees in the performance appraisals can promote healthy and safe behaviors at work.
  2. Making the accident rates of various sections an important criteria of managerial performance can make Safety management programs more effective.


Training and development.

The training and development function is directly linked to maintenance of health and safety in the following ways;

  1. Studies have shown that safety training for new employees is quite beneficial because most accidents are highest during the early days on a new job.

2. Studies have shown that organizations that offer safety training to their employees have reduced accident rates and fewer hazards.

Compensation and reward management.

A reward system that ties bonus payments and other incentives to the safety records of a work group or section can encourage safe work behavior.

Economic costs associated with workplace injuries.

In considering the economics of an unhealthy and unsafe workplace, it is necessary to identify the costs that fall upon organizations that are not keen to manage health and safety. The economic costs of work related accidents would include:

  • Costs of wages paid to an injured person who is unable to work for a given number of days.
  • Cost of wages paid to people who were unable to continue work because they relied on the injured persons aid or output.
  • Cost of wages paid to persons who were unable to continue with work as they assisted the injured person.
  • Cost of material or equipment damage resulting from accidents.
  • Supervisor’s time spent assisting, investigating, reporting the accident and re-assigning work.
  • Cost of training or instructing a replacement worker and making other necessary adjustments
  • Medical cost of the injured to the company.
  • Cost of decreased output by the injured worker after returning to work.
  • Cost of over time necessary to make up for lost production.
  • Cost associated with loss of revenue on orders cancelled as a result of the accident.


The above list of economic costs demonstrates that designing and maintaining a safe work environment can improve productivity by reducing time lost because of work related accidents as well as by avoiding the cost present in every work related accidents and illness.


Studies indicate that the cost of industrial accidents can take as much as 37% of profits and 5% operating costs.

A healthy and safe environment can reduces operating costs and improve organizational effectiveness. Managers should therefore apply the same efforts and creativity to designing and maintaining a healthy and safe work place as they customarily apply to other facets of the business.

Accident and illness prevention programs can be integrated into the overall economic activity of the firm.


Strategies for Managing Health and Safety at Work

  • Design of safe and health systems of work.
  • Exhibiting strong management commitment.
  • Inspect the workplace for health and safety hazards.
  • Establish procedures and controls for dealing with health and safety issues.
  • Promote safe working behaviors.
  • Develop health and safety training programmes.
  • Set up health and safety committee.
  • Monitor health and safety policies.
  • Draw an action plan and checklist.


1)         Design of Safe and Health Systems of Work.

The most direct approach to ensuring safe and healthy workplace is to design systems of work that are safe and without risk to health. This can be done satisfactorily only at the design, planning and purchasing stage.

Most accidents involve an element of failure in control which reflects a failure in managerial skill.

A guiding principle when drawing up arrangement for securing health and safety should be that as far as possible, work should be adapted to people and not vice-versa.

As managers identify processes and machines and substance that are hazardous to health and well being of employees, they must modify them to eliminate or reduce the hazard and risk at the source.

Provision of protective equipment is the typical means used by organization to reduce physical hazards. In some cases, robots can perform hazardous tasks such as spray-painting and wielding, screens on computers.


2)         Exhibit Management Commitment.

Senior management carries the prime responsibility for ensuring a safe and healthy workplace. Health and safety should become an integral part of every manager’s responsibility, starting from the chief executive down to the lowest level supervisor. Anything less that total support from top management raises questions bout the sincerelity of the organization commitment in the eyes of employees, government agencies and the public at large.

To exhibit commitment managers, salaries and promotions may be tied to a satisfactory safety record and compliance with it. Specialist in health and safety areas such as safety engineers and medical technicians can be employed and given adequate authority in the management hierarchy in order to make and implement changes.


3)         Inspect The Workplace for Hazards.

Regular monitoring of the work environment and regular physical examination of employees is another proactive approach to management of health and safety. Construction sites and manufacturing plants require regular inspections to check the application of safety standards and relevant laws. In manufacturing processes, frequent monitoring of air and quality and levels of dust and noise is needed.

Organizations may also monitor a wide range of matters relating to employees health, from routine eye tests and chest x-rays to screening for cancer. A health survey of employees helps to identify hazardous and unhealthy processes.

Three main types of formal inspections can also be carried out.

  1. Accident inspection
  2. Special inspection
  3. General inspections.

Accidents inspection follows an accident in a workplace. Special inspection usually concentrates on a particular workstation or work system e.g. the safety committee might decide it is necessary to examine some work processes.

A general survey calls for a comprehensive survey of the entire workplace.


4)         Establishing Procedures and Controls.

A healthy and safety policy is likely to fail unless effective procedures and controls are established. Procedures for handling health and safety problems need to meet the following basic requirements.

  • Should allow employees representative to talk directly to decision makers on areas of safety and health.
  • They should operate without any undue delay whenever a problem related to health and safety is identified.
  • They should be able to handle emergency problems.
  • Should permit discussions about long term decision affecting health and safety.


5)         Promotion of Safe Working Behavior.

There are several safety related behaviors that can improve safety performance in the workplace. Focus on behavior is based on the observation that 70-95% of workplace accidents resulting in injury are caused by unsafe behaviors. Managerial behavior which is related to health and safety issues can shapes the psychological contact in that an employees perception of a” safety climate” affects the employee behaviors, workers who perceive a positive safety climate in the organization are more likely to engage in safe working behaviors.


6)         Developing Training Programs.

One way to obtain compliance with health and safety regulation is through enhancing employees’ knowledge, understanding and commitment, which can be achieved through health and safety training programs.

The purpose of safety training is;-

  • To improve job knowledge and skills
  • To ensure optimum employee performance at the specified performance standards in health and safety training include: – attention to safety rules and regulations.
  • Like any other training, health and safety training should be developed systematically. The training needs will first be identified through inspection through accidents reports and discussions during health and safety committee meetings, training will then follow, ending with an evaluation of the training given.
  • Top management support is a key ingredient in the availability and success of health and safety training.
  • After employees have completed their safety training at the orientation stage, management should organize regular refresher course so that the training can have a long term effect on employees.
  • Managers, supervisors and safety representatives also need to be exposed to regular training.

7)         Setting up Health and Safety Committees.

There is substantial body of evidence to suggest that health and safety representatives can make an important contribution to the improvement of health and safety at work.

Organization should have safety committees which involve employees in health and safety issues. To make the committees even more effective, a senior manager of the management team should be a member of the committee.

The functions of the committee and their terms of reference depend on the individual company policy and relevant safety regulation but they include the following.

  • The study of accidents and disease statistics and trends, so that reports can be made to management on unsafe, unhealthy conditions and practices and recommendation for corrective action.
  • Assistance in the development of work safety rules and safe working systems.
  • An investigation of the safety content of employee training.

The work of the safety committee should supplement management arrangement for regular and effective monitoring of health and safety precautions.


8)         Monitoring Health and Safety Policies.

Research has shown that many safety and health polices are not that helpful in practice because of:

  • Failure to monitor their relevance to workplace arrangement.
  • Inadequate training.
  • Supervisors and safety officers lacking authority to make decisions.

A proactive approach would involve managers in regularly checking to ensure that safety policies and management procedures at work are constantly monitored changed to ensure that they suit new developments or new work structures.

9)         Drawing up an Action plan.


Strategies for Managing Health and Safety at Work

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