I recently attended a course at Botswana Bureau of Standards on Occupational Health and Safety, commonly known as OHSAS 18001. A thousand questions pinned my mind on this subject of occupational health and safety (OHS). One of them is “As an organisation, you are responsible not only for your own safety, but for the security and safety of those you lead? I wondered as an HR Practitioner, what really brings me to the subject and training of occupational health and safety. Is this a hidden part of my other responsibility. Exactly, where does Human Resources (HR) cross path with Safety, Health and Environment (SHE).
Whatever sort of business you are and career, there is always the possibility of an accident or damage to someone's health. All work exposes people to hazards, be they: loads which have to be manually handled; dangerous machinery; toxic substances; electricity; working with display screen equipment or even psychological hazards such as stress. The reason there are not even more accidents and diseases caused by work is because systems of prevention are in place which have been built up over generations. Safety does not come about by accident: most accidents happen because they have not been prevented.
Employers have a legal responsibility to provide a safe workplace for employees. Legislation often than not place the responsibility of employees’ health and safety on the employer. The Mines, Quarries, Works and Machinery Act provide regulations for order and discipline at the Mines, Quarries and Works. This is an Act to provide for the safety, health and welfare of persons engaged in prospecting, mining and quarrying operations including any works which are part of and ancillary to mining and quarrying operations and to make provisions with respect to the inspection and regulation of mines, quarries, works and of machinery used in connections therewith and for matters incidental thereto.
My point here is; responsibilities and duties of officials and competent person outlined in the Mines, Quarries and Works (Part 2 – Management Control) places safety of employees under managers as employers. Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (OHMS) are designed to manage health and safety data to give an organisation the best chances of having an incident-free workplace. Most organisations have elements of an OHSMS in place; however it is less likely for organisations to have a system in place that coordinates these elements to improve OHS. A systematic approach to OHS ensures that important health and safety issues are brought to attention so they can be fixed. The importance of an OHSMS should not be underestimated. It allows your workplace to systematically eliminate the possibility of accident, illness, injury or fatality caused by workplace hazards. Not only is this obviously beneficial for anyone working in the organisation, it is also beneficial for your organisation as a whole.
Having an OHSMS does not exempt you from your legal requirements; however it should help you meet them. If you fail to meet the legal OHS requirements you will likely face prosecution. As well as legal ramifications, if a workplace lacks OHS protocols, it can decrease the morale of the organisation. An improvement of working methods and the working environment will lead to an increase in worker morale which in turn can lead to an increase in productivity. By improving OHS in your workplace, you will also reduce the risk of losing working days due to illness, injury or accident.
To create a good working environment in an organisation, preventive safety and health work is important; all participants must assume their respective responsibilities. For example, in the Mines, Quarries and Works part 2 sections 6 and 8 appoint the General Manager to be in charge and control. Other appointments such 9(Assistant Manager), 13 (Electrical Engineer), 14(Mechanical Engineer), 15(Surveyor), 16(Mine Captain), 17(Shift Boss) assist in preventative safety and health of subordinates. Moreover, it is important that the various departments work together and workers contribute to the safety and health work. All employers have sole responsibility for the work environment of their employees. Employers’ responsibility for their own employees applies in full, even if there is another responsibility at the same time.
Attention to health and safety is not just about being socially responsible. It also makes good business sense and you should regard it as just as important as the achievement of any other key business objective. Above all, as an employer you need to remember that besides protecting people and the environment, action on health and safety can also make a major contribution to business success. Not only will it help stop accidents and work related ill health among your staff, but it will reduce your accident losses, improve your profit and loss statement and help you become more efficient. Don't think accidents and occupational ill health can't happen in your company. Above all don't wait for things to go wrong and then go for the 'quick fix'. Build health and safety in from the start. Don't delay - make time and space to get started today!