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MANAGING HEALTH AND SAFETY IN WORKPLACE: -EMPLOYEE'S PERSPECTIVE

By NBF News
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Today, employers are concerned with the rising cost of doing business including labour cost, managing union negotiated compensation increases that bear no relationship with inflation and not performance related, managing long serving employees and their gratuities, getting the right people and keeping them, to address the sales teams and their compensation as well as salary structure, also of great concern is the pay roll and non - pay roll costs.

They equally contend with inconsistency in government policies, government instability, high taxation and other sundry contingencies such as security. The only sustainable competitive resources in an organization therefore is people, not just people but good people. Part of the challenges in an organization is to attract, motivate, and retain good people.

One of the strategies in achieving this is through an effective and efficient occupational safety and health management system. Employees are keen and very particular on the environment at which they carry out their daily routine. Safety and remuneration are paramount to a carrier employee.

Safety, health and environment plays a vital role in determining the type of relationship that will exist between an employee or potential employee and an employer.

Workmen compensation acts that was amended in year 2010 could not have come at a better time than now, most especially when most employers have placed profitability far above safety considerations. My opinion is that hazards should be spotted and attended to even before it becomes an accident, to forestall compensation as no compensation can replace pains and bodily losses. The essence of occupational safety and health is the management of occupational risks which consist of plan, do check and act.

Safety is not an event but a process, it therefore incorporate the principle of continuous improvement.

The alarming international statistic of one work – related death occurring every 10 seconds and eight thousand six hundred and forty day, it is obvious that work kills more people across the globe than malaria, HIV/AIDS, wars, pestilence etc.

In addition, there are other associated injuries, mutilations and sicknesses, many of which could have indeed been prevented. They are happening not by fate, but through sheer negligence, not because of absence of laws and regulations but as a result of their violation. There is need therefore for coordinated, multi - stakeholder and multi - sectoral synergy and corporation in developing a preventive approach and safety culture which are critical to achieving sustainable improvement in safety and health standards in the workplace.

An occupational safety and health management system form part of an organization's overall management system. The adoption of such system signals an integrated management approach to the prevention of occupational risks. It is based upon guidelines and follows a process of change that requires leadership and support. OSHMS can be an effective tool for the management of hazards specific to a given industry, process or organization. It application can be adapted to a range of situations, from the simple needs of small scale enterprises to the multiple needs of hazardous and complex industries such as mining, chemical manufacturing or construction.

OSHMS cannot function properly without the existence of effective social dialogue, whether in the context of joint safety and health committee, or other mechanisms such as collective bargaining arrangement. Key element for it to be successful includes management commitment and active participation of workers in it joint implementation.

The incorporation of an occupational safety and health management system in the application of preventive and protective measure, at the workplace has, proven to be essential for the improvement of working condition and the working environment. It principle of continual improvement allows for a periodic review of performance.

An OSH management system is a tool combinning people, Policies, and resources.

Adopting this kid of system is a signal that the company or organization is taking an integrated approach to the prevention of occupational risks with the following agenda

a) Anticipate change
b) Improve business responsibilities and performance in OSH

c) Reduce OSH failures
d) Ensure overall consistency with other management policies.

As good and important as OSHMS could be or seems to be, certain valuable and condition are required in order to prevent detrimental effects such as: -

1) Over – standardization of management methods
2) Break down of social dialogue
3) Compliance with the system without achieving genuine progress

4) Excessive behavioral control.
There is need for the followings to be in place for a comprehensive and assessable OSHMS.

1. Guidelines: – It helps the company to implement policy; i.e, to make the organizational and management decisions needed to comply with the needs of OSH and to work towards continual improvement in this field.

The guidelines are sometimes imposed by a company's client or consultant. If this happens, these is the risk of generating excessive formalism and rigidity, leading to the application of methods that are unsuitable or too numerous, or can even be in contradiction with the organizations business goals.

Company can select the combination of its choice from different system. Small scale enterprises often decide on stepped approach, with the first step being a law level customized standard allowing them to embark upon a process of continual improvement.

Basically there are four categories of existing OSH guidelines or standard system.

1. General good practice guideline such as ILO – OSH 2001, BS 8800

2. Certifiable OSH specification
3. Guidelines focusing on relations with outside/users companies

4. Specific guidelines produced by and for a company or business sector

Implementation of OSH management system
To avoid having an elaborate system that does not deliver result especially when it has been imposed or is applied through a solely top – down approach, leadership and supports are required. If this is not done it will be regarded as just another layer of rules and regulations, more often than not unconnected with actual working practices.

The approach is based on three step processes known as

1. Incitation - When the project is launched.
2. laisser-faire: - When certain individuals or groups will take ownership of the project, perhaps making some changes but also creating favourable condition for its introduction and effectiveness.

3. Institutionalization: – When management takes back control of the project once adopted to then introduce it on a broader basis.

Before developing and introducing an OSHMS tailored to the organizations requirements it can be worth while to perform an initial assessment.

How good is the existing occupational health and safety management system? What are its strong and weak points? How does the workforce feel about the way it is organized?

The following elements can be gradually introduced
• Defining objectives that are consistent with other company policies

• Determining management responsibilities
• Committing resources.
• Defining the ways and means for consulting and involving workers and their representatives

• Choosing guideline or standard systems
• Defining a set of indicators for measuring progress achieved monitoring and analysis.

• Reporting on objectives
It involves all the departments and indeed the while organization.

Organising
The role of those with OSH responsibilities in the company must be specific: – their assignment, responsibilities, obligations, powers and connections etc

Employees and their representative (Union) must be consulted, informed and trained so that they take ownership of the process

PLANNING: – one of the essential drivers of continual improvement in occupational health and safety is the assessment of occupational risks. Analysis of real working situations will largely determine how successful this process will be. Multi – disciplinary approach (Technical, human, or organizational) are necessary both for the company as a whole and for the detailed study of workstations

Implementation
The action plan must be implemented in a way that is compatible with professional rules and practices as well as with existing procedures. This presupposes close corporation with all the workers concerned, participatory schemes based on analysis of the activities and workers freedom to seek innovative solutions. This inturn requires a training programme, social dialogue, communication, documentation and anticipating emergencies.

Audits, analysis and corrective actions: – Audit must be systematically carried out and analyzed in order to select actions. It helps to identify new risks and to proffer appropriate responses audit includes an analysis of occupation accident and diseases that have audit occurred, without restriction to immediate and directly perceivable causes

Common workplace risk/hazards groups
Agents
1. Impact force: – Collisions, falls from height
2. Struck by objects
3. Confined space
4. Slips and trips
5 falling on pointed objects
6. Compressed air/high pressure fluid
7. Entanglement
8. Equipment
Type of damage
1. crushing
2. cutting
3. friction and abrasion
4. shearing
5. stabbing and puncture
Other physical hazards that are of serious concern to an average employees includes

a. noise
b. abrasion
c. lightening
d. barotraumas (hyper/hypobaric pressure)
e. ionizing radiation
f. electricity
g. asphyxiation
h. cold stress (hypothermia)
i. heat stress (hyperthermia)
j. dehydration (due to sweating)
Biological hazards could include:
1. Bacteria, Virus, Fungi, Mold, Blood – borne Pathogens, tuberculosis etc

Chemical hazards include:
Acids, bases, heat metals (lead), solvent (petroleum), particulates (asbestos), silica, highly reactive chemicals, explosion, deflagration, detonation, conflagration

Other hidden psychosocial issues includes
1. Work related stress, overworking
2. Violence – from within and outside organisation
3. Bullying – emotional or verbal abuse
4. Sexual harassment
5. Mobbing
6. Burnout
7. Exposure to unhealthy element during meetings with business associates e.g. tobacco & uncontrolled alcohols

Others are musculoskeletal disorders.
Highest industries with fatality
1. Mining
2. Manufacturing
3. construction
4. Transport.
Employers responsibility to reduce friction while implementing OSHMS.

1. Strong and sustained commitment by management, reflected in the provision of availability of people, budgets, etc.

2. Must provide the resources
3. Must provide the tools & equipment – safety booths, eye/ear protectors, designs

4. provide a conducive and an enabling environment
5. must be sincere
6. be proactive and responsive
7. clear guideline with simple English
8. educate and trained staffs
9. effect compliance
10. adaptation to changes
11. regular consultation with workers representative

12. provision of good communication system
13. existence of a regulatory compliance target
14. Operational procedures to plan/develop safe work practices.

15. design of hazard control system
Employee responsibilities
a. understand the need for safety procedures
b. ready for training
c. obey the rules & regulations
d facilitating and encouraging discussion so as to highlight noncompliant situation and ensure consistency between value, and practices

e. interpersonal communication skills
f. planning safe work practices for system, facilities and equipment

g. Avoid short-cuts to procedures.
h. Not subjecting safety rules to argument, debates and politics

i. Understanding and using safety, health, and environmental science information for improvement of procedures

J. Good record keeping
k. Adaptable for changes
1. use all equipment and materials provided without being forced

OSHMS is not a system designed for the followings
1. cost control
2. improvisions - machine part
3. withunting, intimidation and harassments
4. not to be use as a bureaucratic way of delaying job

5. hiding under guides of OSHMS to retaliate or punish and employee

or management
6. is not a publicity venture or ego boasting
7. not designed to reduce efficiency and productivity

8. not designed to cheat or short – change people
9. not designed to shift responsibilities.
10. not to be seen as increase in overhead cost or labour cost

The positive impact of OSHMS will largely depend on how the above factors can be harmonized between an employee and an employer, however the

concern of all is 'SAFETY'