I recently attended Occupational Health and Safety course. 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 or career you in, there is always the possibility of an adverse incident or accident that can inflict damage to someone's health. All work environments exposes people to innumerable hazards and these ranges from: loads that are manually handled, dangerous machinery, toxic substances, electricity, working with display screen equipment or even psychological hazards such as stress. The reason that we have recorded and reported fewer accidents and pandemic outbreaks in recent years than previously attributed to adverse work environments is because preventive and corrective systems and mechanisms that were put in place over generations. However, this has not been an overnight success story. Both the public and private entities have collaborated to ensure safety and health matters and awareness were brought to prominence and tackled head-on. This was through formulation of strong and stringent regulation frameworks enforced to promote compliance with safety and health laws. At the same time management and unions continued to make clarion call on the criticality of safety and health at the workplace to minimise fatalities, particularly in manufacturing and mining environments. The widespread awareness of safety and health issues has resulted in various interventions that encouraged embedment of safety and health culture in most entities world over, with safety and health induction programs conducted frequently to drive the point home.
Employers have a legal responsibility to provide a safe workplace for employees. Legislation more often than not places the responsibility of employee’s health and safety on the employer. Locally the Botswana Mines, Quarries, Works and Machinery Act provides 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. 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, we should not 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!