Health and Safety in the Workplace: Importance
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Human resources are one of the most important features of many businesses. A business' success relies heavily on the effectiveness to which this resource is managed. Policies and practices used by the firm, set out the standards to which they seek to aspire. They are designed to govern the operation of the business; especially in today's economy where there is such a rise in service industries (Biz/ed, 2010). This topic is of importance to us because it has proven to be a neglected field in today's corporate world; especially in Grenada. In this regard, this paper seek to highlight the importance of Workplace Health and safety to the business, to develop an understanding of how its effective management can affect the performance of a business, outline how this can be effectively carried out with the interest of the company in mind.
It is often said that, "the health of a nation is the wealth of a nation" (Fraser, 2004), the same concept applies to business. The health and safety of a company's human resource is an enormous contributor to the success of that business. Human resources account for a large proportion of many company's' costs; it is the people that invariably drive a business (Biz/ed, 2010)
According to the Bureau Veritas, Workplace Health and Safety refers to, the evaluation of risks relating to the health and safety of an organization's workers and others (including the public) who may be affected by its activities (Bureau Veritas, 2007).
Who establish workplace health and safety?
The health and safety of a workplace is established through different sources. Firstly, on a national level occupational health and safety is instituted in accordance with legal regulations that were created by legislative decisions and is enforced and monitored by agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), for the U.S., and the Ministry of Labour in Grenada. OSHA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Labour, has the responsibility of assuring the safety and health of America's workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging (OSHA, n.d.).
On a national and/or on a company level there are also instances of regular inspections by a safety representative. This can be self requested or legally mandated. This is done to ensure that companies follow the stipulated guidelines that are set to govern the safety and health of the workplace. Also, from a corporate standpoint, the health and safety standards of the company can be establish by the declaration of it in the Company's general worker manual and/or in the separate manual set aside for clearly laying out, the standards by which the company seek to keep its work environment and the people that use it safe and healthy. A more informal, but still an effective method is employee observation. This is simply employees reporting hazards that go unnoticed to the inspection representative and/or management.
These options are in place to ensure accordance of a company to monitor and control the health and safety of the workplace, and to maintain it. In-adherence of regulations set by the above regulatory bodies can result in an employer being fined or sentenced to jail time (Cascio, 1998).
Reasons for Maintaining Workplace Health and Safety
There are reasons why a business should maintain a safe and healthy workplace. It purges the environment of possible risks to everyone that uses the facility. An organization's productivity is directly related to the health and safety of its workforce. Therefore, proper health and safety practices safeguard the productivity of its employees. When the workforce is unhealthy it affects productivity; quantity and quality. Proper practices maintain the health of the workers and it protects human rights; the human right to a safe and healthy environment and the human right to a safe and healthy workplace (PDHRE, n.d.)
A major reason for maintaining health and safety in the workplace is that failure to do so cost too much. The consequences of not up keeping proper health and safety practices can range from having expensive monetary payouts, to death (users of the workplace). Other repercussions are
Lower productivity levels - sick or injured worker do not produce the same quality and quantity as do health workers.
Poor quality products and services - the direct relation between quality of workforce and quality of products or service they produce.
High levels of complaints from customers - lower quality of products or services delivered to customers would make them unhappy.
Loss of customers and subsequently lower revenues - if the quality of the production isn't addressed it can result in a loss in the customer base and later loss in revenues because of lower sales.
Higher costs - this increase in cost can come from different sources including: payment of insurance claims for damages, cost of substitution for sick or injured workers (training and wages), and benefits for sick or injured workers.
Higher staff turnover - as persons get sick or injured on the job they tend to leave. If the health and safety practices of the workplace are dreadful employees would not stay therefore higher turnover.
Poor industrial relations - poor health and safety practices would attract attention from unions who fight for the rights of employees.
Thus, addressing safety and health issues in the workplace saves the employer money and adds value to the business (OSHA, n.d.). When workers remain safe and healthy, the direct cost-savings to businesses include:
- lower workers' compensation insurance costs
- reduced medical expenditures
- smaller expenditures for return-to-work programs
- fewer faulty products
- lower costs for job accommodations for injured workers
- less money spent for overtime benefits
Safety and health also result in substantial decreases in indirect cost (OSHA, n.d.). This is as a result of:
- increased productivity
- higher quality products
- increased morale
- better labour/management relations
- reduced turnover
- better use of human resources
Employees and their families benefit from safety and health because (OSHA, n.d.):
- their incomes are protected; no financial shock because of illness or injury
- their family lives are not hampered by injury; no loss of income destabilization because of illness and injury
- they have less stress; because of a com
Workplace health and safety extend way beyond the boundaries of the worksite. The families of workers and other users of the worksite can also be impacted by health and safety in the workplace (OSHA, n.d.).
It is of a misconception that health and safety in the workplace only entails ensuring that there aren't any hazards on the worksite however it should be noted that the hazard can be the employees themselves. Employees who are sick (communicable/non communicable), who have a drug or alcohol problem, who have psychological problems can also pose great threat to the health and safety of others in the workplace. Violent employees can also be classified as a hazard (Cascio, 1998). In this regard testing of the individual together with the worksite is necessary; drug and alcohol testing, psychological tests etc.
Whose responsibility is it?
The health and safety of a workplace should be part of the business' HR strategy. It should be an initiative that is deeply rooted into the culture of a business. No one person should be responsible for it. Given this, all employees, supervisors and managers should undergo training in this area to suit their position. Managers especially should possess an attitude that support good health and safety practices because it is usually mirrored by employees; if the manager care about health and safety, the employees will do too (OSHA, n.d.).
Both the employer and the employee are responsible for ensuring that the workplace is healthy and safe for all users. Employers are legally obligated to maintain and provide a working environment that is conducive for comfortable operations. They also have to provide safe systems of work and facilities that would sustain the welfare of its employees. They are also responsible for providing employees with any information, instruction, training and/or supervision that is needed to ensure that workers are safe during operations no matter the job. As a result of this responsibility to ensure employees are safe at work, an employer may institute regulations and policies that would call for the attention from and compliance of employees (Directgov, 2010).
Employees are also expected to play a part in ensuring proper health and safety of the workplace. They are to make certain their own personal health and safety and that of other persons in the workplace; whether colleague, customer, supplier, etc. Importantly, workers are expected to adhere to the directions given by management to guarantee health and safety. If workers are to ignore these directives it creates a hazard in the workplace not only for themselves but also for others (Directgov, 2010).
Effective management of the resource
Each workplace is different and dynamic. Therefore the strategy used to effectively manage the human resource should also be different and dynamic. This strategy should include clear and concise plans for the addressing the types of accidents that and exposing the health and safety hazards that could occur at the worksite (OSHA, n.d.).
An effective plan, as based upon the safety and health program management guidelines given by OSHA in January 1989 is the Four Point workplace Program.
The Four Point Workplace Program as its name suggests, it is a program that contains four elements in approaching optimum effective health and safety standards. These elements
Commitment and Employee Involvement
The manager or management team leads the way, by setting policy, assigning and supporting responsibility, setting an example and involving employees.
The worksite is continually analyzed to identify all existing and potential hazards.
Hazard Prevention and Control
Methods to prevent or control existing or potential hazards are put in place and maintained.
Training for Employees, Supervisors and Managers
Managers, supervisors and employees are trained to understand and deal with worksite hazards.
The success of a business rests to a large degree on the quality of the workforce - successful management of this crucial resource is critical (Biz/ed, 2010)
The Employer has a responsibility to ensure that his/her employees are safe at work, and so may institute regulations and policies to ensure this. It is now the responsibility of the employee to make certain that they follow these rules. As an employee, one has rights and responsibilities for their own wellbeing and that of their colleagues and by extension the public (customers) (OSHA, n.d.)." The key to the success of a safety and health plan is to see it as a part of the business operation and to see it reflected in the day-to-day operations.Â As the implemented plan is incorporated into the business culture, health and safety consciousness will become engrained into the psyche of everyone. (OSHA, n.d.). Protecting people on the job is in everyone's best interest - our economy, our communities, our fellow workers and our families. Safety and health add value to businesses, workplaces and lives (OSHA, n.d.).
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