Good health and safety at work

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INTRODUCTION:

Good health and safety at work is not only important in human terms, but it is also one of the most effective ways to ensure that the enterprises are successful and sustainable.

Simple cost benefit analysis will not be the appropriate way to look towards the issue of health and safety, as it is almost impossible to determine the cost of unquantifiable losses such as suffering, pain caused to the affected person and his family, loss in mobility, etc. Good health and safety of their employees is not only the moral obligation of the enterprises, but it comes along with the legal bindings as well. Key legislations like Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) 1974, Construction Design and Management (CDM) 1994 and many more like these have made it almost impossible for the businesses to ignore this area. Also, not to forget, there are many financial aspects attached to it. Factors like disruption, claims for damages, loss of confidence in management and loss of goodwill might impact the economy of business substantially, sometimes leading them to the total collapse. Hence, it is very important for any organization to follow the existing policies, to keep track of new updates in rules and regulations and to be innovative in finding out the ways to reduce risks.

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The Manchester Joint Hospitals Project has already demonstrated a better-than-average safety record. Build quality and productivity have been excellent. Other projects in the North-West England are recognising the change and following the example. But all these positive results should not stop an organization from finding out the new ways to reduce the risk at work.

Following actions have already been taken on the construction site by keeping the key legislations for respective action in mind, failing to comply with which, the company and management would have been prosecuted. Actions and their respective legislations are as given below:

  • Development of Safety Committee: HSWA 1974, s.2(4)
  • Stop Work Procedure : HSWA 1974, s.2(1)
  • Safety Representatives' Training : HSWA 1974, s.2(7)

Few initiatives are mentioned below, which will help in to improve safety, health and welfare on site. It may also help the project to become a role model, which others would like to follow.

Initiatives

1) Substance abuse at work:

It can be described as the overindulgence in and dependence of a drugor other chemical leading to effects that are detrimental to the individual's physical and mental health, or the welfareof others.

Most of the people and organizations still think that alcohol or drug addiction is personal matter as long as it takes off the work place. But they fail to recognise the long term effects of this addiction on that person. Typical response from management on such issues would be:

Collusion: Either turn a blind eye towards the problem or reduce the effect of the problem by, for example, transferring the employee.

Dismissal: Terminate the employee from the organization.

But, the two solutions mentioned above can at the most, reduce the effect of the problem or removes effect on the workplace. A more sympathetic and decisive approach would be to motivate employees in the initial stage of their problem. An employer must analyse and investigate the existing as well as the potential problems and consult employees and their representatives. Following remedial measures should be taken to overcome this issue.

  • A written substance abuse policy
  • A supervisory training program
  • An employee education and awareness program
  • Access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
  • A drug testing program, where appropriate

Barriers:

  • Employment contracts: It is very difficult to change employment contract terms of existing employees without ample consultation and without giving convincing reason for doing so.
  • Confidentiality: Employees seeking help for a substance abuse might be reluctant to approach management in the initial stage, as they will be sceptical about the confidentiality of their matter. Hence it the duty of the employer to respect the privacy of the respective employee.

Key Legislation under which initiative should be taken:

According to HSWA 1974 S.1 (1a), it is preliminary duty of the employer to secure health safety and welfare of persons at work.

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As per HSWA 1974 S.2 (1), general duties of employer, it requires employer to ensure, so far as is reasonable practicable, health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.

In HSWA 1974 section 7(a), general duties of employees at work, it places every employee at work under an obligation to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected.

Also HSWA 1974 section 3(1) and s2 (3) put emphasis on employers for conducting an undertaking for health and safety risks and policy.

2) Artificial Optical Radiation:

According to Eurofound (European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions), optical radiation can be defined as 'any electromagnetic radiation in the wavelength range between 100 nm and 1 nm.' It is further divided into ultraviolet radiation, visible radiation and infrared radiation.

Exposure to UV radiations from sun can lead to skin damage like sunburn, skin aging, blistering, sun beds and long term exposure can sometimes, may lead to skin cancer. As per Health and Safety Executive guidance, people with the pale skin, especially those with the fair or red hair, are at the maximum risk, whereas, people with black or brown skin are at the lowest risk. But, people of all skin colours are susceptible to overheating and dehydration.

As an employer we can:

  • Include sun protection advice on regular health and safety training.
  • Provide appropriate protective equipments to the workers who are exposed to artificial optical radiations.
  • Instruct workers to keep covered up while working in the sun, especially during summer.
  • Encourage workers to take breaks in the shade instead of standing in the sun.
  • Provide site water points and rest area in shade.
  • Schedule work to minimize exposure.
  • Conduct regular skin check up of the workers who are exposed to sun quite frequently.

Barriers:

  • Workers may avoid covering entire body with clothes or protective equipments, as they can feel bit restricted in moving the body while working.
  • Negligent attitude of workers can lead them to long term exposure to the optical radiations.

Key Legislation under which initiative should be taken:

As of now, there is no legal obligation on employers to provide outdoor workers with sun cream or sunglasses, but HSE encourages employers to include sun protection advice in routine health and safety training.

But The European Parliament and Council have introduced directive (2006/25/EC) on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to risks arising from optical radiation. It contains provisions on risk assessment, control of exposure, health surveillance and information, instruction and training. Member States have until 27 April 2010 to transpose the Directive and implement its requirements.

3) Noise at work:

Long term exposure to high frequency noise at work can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss. Sudden hearing loss can be caused immediately by extremely loud, explosive noises. But in most of the cases, hearing loss is a gradual process because of prolonged exposure to noise.

As per the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, employers have following duties:

  • Assess the risk to the employees
  • Take action to reduce the noise exposure which may produce risk
  • Otherwise provide employees hearing protection
  • Stay within the legal limits of noise exposure
  • Provide employees with information, instruction and training

Barriers:

  • Workers may feel isolated after wearing noise protective equipment, hence might avoid using it.
  • Workers might find it difficult to use protective equipments along with hard hats. So if the wide range of equipments is not available, workers will try to avoid using them.
  • Workers may find it difficult to follow instructions given by supervisor while working. It may lead workers to avoid using protective equipments.

Key Legislation under which initiative should be taken:

According to HSWA 1974 S.1 (1a), it is preliminary duty of the employer to secure health safety and welfare of persons at work.

As per HSWA 1974 S.2 (1), general duties of employer, it requires employer to ensure, so far as is reasonable practicable, health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.

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The Noise Control at Work Regulations 1989 and 2005 requires employers to prevent or reduce risks to health and safety of employees from exposure to noise at work.

Conclusion:

The Manchester Joint Hospital Project has already been achieving better-than-average safety record. Many other projects in north-west England have already been starting to follow the project. With the implementation of initiatives suggested above, by keeping barriers in mind and trying to emulate them at the time of implementation, this project can achieve new heights in the record books of health and safety and can become a role model, which every other project in the country would like to follow.