Most people spend a large amount of their time at work working for someone, or being employed by someone. It is therefore very important that the workplace health and safety is well maintained and that the health, safety and wellbeing of the entire workforce is always a priority for all employers or organisations.
Workplace health and safety is when the employer looks after the health and safety of all employees at work.
Definition of Occupational Health and safety: “It is the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being of workers in all occupations by preventing departures from health, controlling risks and the adaptation of work to people and people to their jobs”
The importance of Workplace Health and Safety
Society, legislature and the government have made and enforce workplace health and safety as a compliance requirement for all employers and workplaces. Health and safety procedures in the workplace are therefore an enforceable compliance requirement for all workplaces and employers and those that do not comply, could result in fines and even imprisonment.
Employers have a moral, legal and financial obligation to ensure that the workplace is in a healthy and safe condition and state and maintained in these conditions. If this is not the case and an employee or employees are injured or become ill because of a poorly maintained workplace health and safety, the following may occur:
- Morally: It is morally unaccepted by society, so this could result in repetitional damage and risk to the organisation or employer;
- Legally: It is legally unacceptable so criminal and civil law may be instituted against the organisation, CEO, management or even an employee who may be fined, imprisoned or both;
- Financially: The negative financial repercussions may be large, as much as 10% of the annual turnover, as a result of production loss, overtime replacements, legal costs, increased insurance premiums, fines etc.
Key principles of workplace health and safety
Listed below are some key principles to follow for workplace health and safety, which may assist businesses, organisations, and employers if implemented and adhered to:
Health and safety policy and objectives
Top management should develop a thorough and effective policy, as well as clear, realistic, and achievable objectives that should be adhered to and met.
Health and safety risk assessments
Risk assessments across the entire workplace must be conducted as and when required. All the hazards and risks must be identified and appropriate arrangements must be put in place to minimise or eliminate these.
Health and safety employee training
The workforce must be trained in accredited health and safety-related courses such as first aid, firefighting, evacuation planning, health and safety (H&S) representative, H&S supervisor, H&S Officer. These courses will empower and up-skill the workforce to implement and maintain workplace health and safety.
Workplace safety procedure
Written safe work procedures must be developed and adhered to for all work-related activities, tasks and procedures where employee’s may be injured or become ill. Safe workplace practices must become the norm for everyone.
Workforce and employee involvement and participation
Management must involve the workforce and employees in health and safety strategy, discussions, investigations, committee’s much as possible. The H&S Committee must include management and employee representatives (H&S representatives) and is an ideal platform to have employee involvement and participation.
Monitor, check, and investigate
To ensure effective and efficient workplace health and safety performance and compliance, there must be regular monitoring and checking of procedures, equipment, contractor performance, inspections, etc against acceptable set standards and objectives. All accidents and incidents must also be reported and investigated to ensure procedures are put in place to prevent reoccurrence.