5.0 HEALTH AND SAFETY
Trainee should be able to;
- -Explain the importance of health and safety programmes in an organization
- -Discuss health and safety hazards in an organization
- -Explain the health and safety measures in an organization
5.1Importance of Health and Safety Programmes in an Organization
The achievement of the highest standards of health and safety in the workplace is important because the elimination, or at least minimization, of health and safety hazards and risks is the moral as well as the legal responsibility of employers. Close and continuous attention to health and safety is important because ill-health and injuries inflicted by the system of work or working conditions cause suffering and loss to individuals and their dependants. In addition, accidents and absences through ill-health or injuries result in losses and damage for the organization. Research has established that the tangible benefits from better health and safety management include higher productivity, lower absence, avoiding the cost of accidents and litigation, meeting client demands, and improved staff morale and employee relations. Some organizations have managed to overcome the common perception that health and safety is a compliance or staff welfare issue, and used initiatives in this area to add value to the business.
Managing health and safety at work is a involves: developing health and safety policies; conducting risk assessments which identify hazards and assess the risks attached to them; carrying out health and safety audits and inspections; implementing occupational health programmes; managing stress; preventing accidents; measuring health and safety performance; communicating the need for good health and safety practices; training in good health and safety practices; and organizing health and safety.
HR Department’s Responsibilities
Although line managers are primarily responsible for maintaining a safe and healthy working environment, HR department staff provides expertise to assist them to deal adequately with these important matters. In addition, HR manager is usually responsible for coordinating and monitoring specific health and safety programmes.
Most countries enact laws governing health, safety and basic welfare of employees in the workplace, and it is essential for the HR manager to ensure that management and employees are fully aware of their moral and legal obligations and responsibilities. These responsibilities
include a number of preventive measures which can be taken under the coordination of HR department.
The main responsibilities of HR department include: prevention of accidents; creating safety consciousness; making people safe; Making the job safe; Making the work environment safe; Making the work environment safe; provision of Adequate training in the correct use of machinery and equipment is essential as well as establishing Safety committees
Health and Safety Policies
Written health and safety policies are important to show that top management is concerned about the protection of the organization’s employees from hazards at work and to indicate how this protection will be provided. They are, therefore, first, a declaration of intent, second, a definition of the means by which that intent will be realized, and third, a statement of the guidelines that should be followed by everyone concerned including all employees in implementing the policy. The policy statement should consist of three parts: the general policy statement; the description of the organization for health and safety; and details of arrangements for implementing the policy.
The general policy statement should be a declaration of the intention of the employer to safeguard the health and safety of employees and should emphasize four fundamental points: that the safety of employees and the public is of paramount importance; that safety takes precedence over expediency; that every effort will be made to involve all managers, team leaders and employees in the development and implementation of health and safety procedures; and that health and safety legislation will be complied with in the spirit as well as the letter of the law.
The Organization section of the policy statement should describe the health and safety organization of the company through which standards are set and achieved by people at all levels in the organization.
This statement should state the responsibility of top management for the health and safety performance of the organization. It should then indicate how key management personnel are held accountable for performance in their areas. The role of safety representatives and safety committees should be defined, and the duties of specialists such as the safety adviser and the medical officer should be summarized.
5.2 Health and Safety Hazards in an Organization
Hazard and Risk
A Hazard is a potential source of harm or adverse health effect on a person or persons’. ‘Risk is the likelihood that a person may be harmed or suffers adverse health effects if exposed to a hazard.’ The terms Hazard and Risk are often used interchangeably but this simple example explains the difference between the two. If there was a spill of water in a room then that water would present a slipping hazard to persons passing through it. If access to that area was prevented by a physical barrier then the hazard would remain though the risk would be minimised.
Categories Risk and Hazards
The level of risk is often categorized upon the potential harm or adverse health effect that the hazard may cause the number of times persons are exposed and the number of persons exposed. For example exposure to airborne asbestos fibers will always be classified as high because a single exposure may cause potentially fatal lung disease, whereas the risk associated with using a display screen for a short period could be considered to be very low as the potential harm or adverse health effects are minimal.
Hazards should be ranked according to their potential severity as a basis for producing one side of the risk equation. A simple three-point scale can be used such as low, moderate and high. A more complex severity rating scale has been proposed by Holt and Andrews (1993), as follows:
Catastrophic (imminent danger exists, hazard capable of causing death and illness on a wide scale); Critical (hazard that can result in serious illness, severe injury, property and equipment
Damage); Marginal (hazard that can cause illness, injury, or equipment damage, but the results would not be expected to be serious); and Negligible (hazard that will not result in serious injury or illness; remote possibility of damage beyond minor first-aid case).
Risk assessments are concerned with looking for hazards and estimating the level of risk associated with them. The purpose of risk assessments is, of course, to initiate preventive action because they enable control measures to be devised on the basis of an understanding of the relative importance of risks. There are two types of risk assessment. The first is quantitative risk assessment, which produces an objective probability estimate based upon risk information that is immediately applicable to the circumstances in which the risk occurs. The second is qualitative risk assessment, which is more subjective and is based on judgments backed by generalized data. Quantitative risk assessment is preferable where data are available. Qualitative risk assessment may be acceptable if there are little or no specific data available.
Risk assessment starts with identification of hazards. Once the hazards have been identified it is necessary to assess how high the risks are. This involves answering three questions: What is the worst result? How likely is it to happen? And how many people could be hurt if things go wrong? A probability rating system can be used such as the one recommended by Holt and Andrews: Probable – likely to occur immediately or shortly; reasonably probable – probably will occur in time; Remote – may occur in time; and extremely remote – unlikely to occur.
Risk assessment should lead to action. The type of action can be ranked in order of potential effectiveness in the form of a ‘safety precedence sequence’ and include: Hazard elimination (use of alternatives, design improvements, change of Process); Substitution (for example, replacement of a chemical with one which is less Risky); Use of barriers ( removing the hazard from the worker or removing the worker from the hazard.); Use of procedures ( limitation of exposure, dilution of exposure, safe systems of work depending on human response);Use of warning systems ( signs, instructions, labels); and Use of personal protective clothing (this depends on human response and is used as a side measure only when all other options have been exhausted).
Once you hazards have been ranked, appropriate methods to control each hazard should be established. Hazard control methods are often grouped into the following categories: elimination or substitution (Elimination of the hazard is not always achievable though it does totally remove the hazard and thereby eliminates the risk of exposure. An example of this would be that petrol station attendants are no longer exposed to the risk of lead poisoning following the removal of lead from petrol products); engineering controls Engineering (Controls involve redesigning a process to place a barrier between the person and the hazard or remove the hazard from the person, such as machinery guarding, proximity guarding, extraction systems or removing the operator to a remote location away from the hazard); administrative controls (Administrative controls include adopting standard operating procedures or safe work practices or providing appropriate training, instruction or information to reduce the potential for harm and/or adverse health effects to person(s). Isolation and permit to work procedures are examples of administrative controls); and personal protective equipment.
There are generally four main of Hazards: Physical, chemical, biological and psychological. Physical hazards are conditions or situations that can cause the body physical harm or intense stress. Physical hazards can be both natural and human made elements. Physical hazards are the most common hazards and are present in most workplaces at some time. This category also includes the hazards from working in confined spaces, being hit by flying objects, caught in explosions, falling from heights and tripping on obstacles, electrical hazards, unguarded machinery, Temperature hazards, exposed moving parts, constant loud noise, vibrations, lighting hazards, spills etc.
Chemical hazards are substances that can cause harm or damage to the body, property or the environment. Chemical hazards can be both natural and human made origin. Chemicals can affect the skin by contact or the body either through the digestive system or through the lungs if air is contaminated with chemicals, vapor, mist or dust. There can be an acute (immediate) effect, or a chronic (medium to long-term) effect from the accumulation of chemicals or substances in or on the body. Examples include: cleaning products and solvents, vapors and fumes, carbon monoxide or other gases, gasoline or other flammable materials.
Biological hazards are biological agents that can cause harm to the human body. Biological hazards come from working with people, animals or infectious plant material. They can be viruses, parasites, bacteria, food, fungi, and foreign toxins. Examples include: blood or other bodily fluids, bacteria and viruses, insect bites, animal and bird droppings.
Psychological hazards are created during work related stress or a stressful environment. The most common are Ergonomic hazards which occur when the type of work you do, your body position and/or your working conditions put a strain on your body. Ergonomics hazards are difficult to identify because an employee does not immediately recognize the harm they are doing to his health. Examples include: poor lighting, improperly adjusted workstations and chairs, frequent lifting, repetitive or awkward movements. Other psychological hazards include stress, fatigue, the effects of shift work, and even assaults from other people
There are three basic causes of workplace accidents chance occurrence, unsafe conditions, and employees’ unsafe acts and chance occurrences which are in most cases beyond the management’s control. However, unsafe conditions are a main cause of accidents. They include things like: Improperly guarded equipment; Defective equipment; Hazardous procedures in, on , or around machines or equipment; Unsafe storage such as congestion, overloading; Improper illumination; and Improper ventilation .The solution to these causes is to identify and eliminate the unsafe conditions and observing the laid down Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) standards.
Unsafe acts can undo even the best attempts to reduce unsafe conditions. It may seem that some people are simply accident prone, However, there is growing evidence that people with specific traits may indeed by accident prone. For example, people who are impulsive, sensation seeking, extremely extroverted and less conscientious are more likely to have accidents. A person who is accident prone on one job may not be so on a different job. Examples of unsafe acts include: distraction by cell phones, eating, drinking while working and so on. Other causes of accidents involve workplace climate or psychology such as strong pressure within the organization to complete the work as quickly as possible , employees who are under a great deal of stress, and a poor safety are examples of psychological conditions leading to accidents .
Hazards and Risks in an Organization
Most accidents are caused by a few key activities. Risk assessors are advised to concentrate initially on those activities that could cause serious harm. The following are typical activities where accidents happen or there are high risks:
- receipt of raw materials, e.g. lifting, carrying;
- stacking and storage, e.g. falling materials;
- movement of people and materials, e.g. falls, collisions;
- processing of raw materials, e.g. exposure to toxic substances;
- maintenance of buildings, e.g. roof work, gutter cleaning;
- maintenance of plant and machinery, e.g. lifting tackle, installation of equipment;
- using electricity, e.g. using hand tools, extension leads;
- operating machines, e.g. operating without sufficient clearance, or at an unsafespeed; not using safety devices;
- failure to wear protective equipment, e.g. hats, boots, clothing;
- distribution of finished jobs, e.g. movement of vehicles;
- dealing with emergencies, e.g. spillages, fires, explosions;
- health hazards arising from the use of equipment or methods of working etc
5.3 Health and Safety Measures
The prevention of accidents is achieved by:
- · Identifying the causes of accidents and the conditions under which they are most likely to occur;
- · Taking account of safety factors at the design stage
- · Designing safety equipment and protective devices and providing protective clothing;
- · Carrying out regular risk assessments audits, inspections and checks and taking action to eliminate risks;
- · Investigating all accidents resulting in damage to establish the cause and to initiate corrective action;
- · Maintaining good records and statistics in order to identify problem areas and unsatisfactory trends;
- · Conducting a continuous programme of education and training on safe working habits and methods of avoiding accidents;
- · Encouraging methods of leadership and motivation that do not place excessive demands on people
Occupational Health Programmes
Almost 20 million working days a year are lost all over the world because of work-related illness. Two million people suffer from illness they believe was caused by their work such as Muscular disorders and back pain. The next biggest problem is stress, which 500,000 people say is so bad that it is making them ill. These are large and disturbing figures and they show that high priority must be given to creating and maintaining programmes for the improvement of occupational health. The control of occupational health and hygiene problems can be achieved by:
- · Eliminating the hazard at source through design and process engineering;
- · Isolating hazardous processes and substances so that workers do not come into contact with them;
- · Changing the processes or substances used, to promote better protection or eliminate the risk;
- · Providing protective equipment, but only if changes to the design, process or specification cannot completely remove the hazard;
- · Training workers to avoid risk;
- · Maintaining plant and equipment to eliminate the possibility of harmful emissions, controlling the use of toxic substances and eliminating radiation hazards;
- · Good housekeeping to keep premises and machinery clean and free from toxic substances;
- · Regular inspections to ensure that potential health risks are identified in goodtime;
- · Pre-employment medical examinations and regular checks on those exposed to risk;
- · ensuring that ergonomic considerations (ie, those concerning the design and use of equipment, machines, processes and workstations) are taken into account in design specifications, establishing work routines and training – this is particularly important as a means of minimizing the incidence of repetitive strain injury(RSI);
- · Maintaining preventive medicine programmes which develop health standards for each job and involve regular audits of potential health hazards and regular examinations for anyone at risk.
- · Particular attention needs to be exercised on the control of noise, fatigue and stress.Control of stress should be regarded as a major part of any occupational health programme.
5.4 Review Questions
- Explain how occupational hazards can be minimized in an organization
- State the responsibilities of HR department relating to health and safety issues in an organization
- Distinguish between a hazard and a risk
- State ten hazards and risks in an organization
- Describe the risk assessment process
1.Armstrong,M.,(2006), A Handbook of Human Resource Practice (10th Ed),Koganpage.London
- Dessler& Cole (2011), Human Resources Management in Canada (11th Ed) Pearson Canada Inc.
3.Joshi, M.,(2013),Human Resource Management (1st Ed), Manmohan. Bookboon.com