Occupational Health And Safety Practices Construction Essay

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As mentioned in Chapter 1, the aim of the survey was to analyse the occupational health and safety practices in place at the Municipal Council of Port Louis, focusing on the administrative cadre.

Correlating the results of the study to the objectives set, evidence shows that the actual health and safety practices at the Council are very poor and working conditions are in a deplorable state.

The first observation made is the lack of awareness of respondents with regards to matters relating to health and safety issues. For instance, 72.6% of the 84 respondents are not aware of the OSHA 2005, which sets out all the provisions regulating health and safety at work (Figure 1). 77.4% of the respondents are not aware of the Council's Health and Safety Policy (Figure ). A Health and Safety Policy, as explained in Chapter 2, sets the direction for the organisation to follow on matters relating to health and safety and demonstrates how objectives of health and safety are integrated in the overall management system.

The two reasons that can explain this situation are:

The unwillingness of employees to learn about the OSHA 2005 or the Council's Health and Safety as they may not feel concerned by them

these documents were not communicated to the Staff of the Council as it can be observed that even 6.2% of senior and 23.1% of middle managers are not aware of the Policy (Figure ).

Health and safety does not fall fully under the responsibility of management. Under the OSHA, employees have the responsibilities to learn about the provisions of the legislation and to cooperate with management in abiding by the principles faithfully. Also, by not learning about the law, they are putting themselves at risk by not upholding good health and safety practices in their daily tasks and management cannot be solely blame for any accidents, as dictated by the famous ancient latin legal doctrine "Ignorantia juris non excusat" (Ignorance of the law does not excuse).

However, ideally, management should have communicated the essentials of the Act to the employees, informing them of their rights and duties.

From the secondary data available, it was found out that the Council has a Health and Safety Policy which is dated back to 2002 (Find at annex). It was also found a Health and Safety Officer, who has recently been appointed by the LGSC on a substantive basis has been posted at the Council. This was confirmed by the highly positive response (88.1%) of the respondents (Figure 5).

A second observation made is the presence of physical hazards at the Council. This substantiates results found on the poor conditions of the office environment (Table ).

According to 61% of respondents, the building is in a deplorable state. This can be explained by the fact that being a public institution, it is very difficult to find funds for the construction of new office buildings. However, buildings should have been maintained on a regular basis.

According to Section 34 of the OSHA 2005, the office building need to be of sound construction, have a watertight roof, kept free from dampness and be properly maintained. Proper drainage system is needed.

Hence, it can be seen that the Council is not complying with the law.

It was found that there is poor ventilation (51.2%) and the uncomfortable temperature in the office (59.5%) can be explained by the hot climate in Port Louis.

The office contains innumerable sources of air pollutants and hence needs to be aerated on a regular basis to prevent diseases like the Legionnaires disease which occurs as a result of poorly maintained ventilation systems. Management should envisage the installation of mechanical air conditioning, and regulate temperature to make workers comfortable.

High noise levels are disturbing to the concentration of respondents (52.4%). As explained in the literature reviews, excessive noise can lead to interference in communication and can affect the concentration of workers, reducing their productivity.

Poor housekeeping has resulted in unclean offices (52.4%) and obstructions such as trailing computer and electrical cables (65.5%) which represent a serious trip and fall hazard. Accumulation of trade wastes as explained before, can give rise to biological hazards like breeding of germs leading to diseases.

According to Section 35 of the OSHA 2005, the office area needs to be kept clean so as to prevent accumulation of dirt and trade wastes have to be removed on a regular basis, with the floor being cleaned atleast once weekly.

This shows non-compliance to the law.

Also, in the public sector, it is common knowledge that files are stored in open filing cabinets which results in accumulation of dusts, leading to the dissatisfaction of employees (61.9%).

It was found that though many respondents are satisfied with the level of lighting (50%), it should be noted that they were not asked to specify the types of lighting used. Artificial lighting can be damaging to the health of employees in the long term.

36.9% of respondents who claim occasionally suffer from occupational illnesses and pains stated the cause of their sufferings to be the poor office environment: poor temperature and ventilation systems causing allergies in workers, headaches and eye irritations owing to the lighting provided, trips and falls from trailing cables and inadequate filing cabinets.

The inadequate safety measures were also noted. According to 66.7% of respondents, electrical equipments are not serviced on a regular basis. This result in electrical appliances being damaged leading to overheating, short circuits, or explosions. According to the Guidelines from the Government Fire Services dated 28 November 2006, the main cause of fire is "faulty electrical installation/equipment". Hence, electrical installations and equipments have to be properly maintained and tested so as to minimize the risk of fire.

For an organisation to be certified by the Fire Services, it has to satisfy some criteria, which has been explained in details before. It has to be able to provide to life safety, fire prevention, fire protection and fire fighting measures.

From the statement of results, it can be noted that:

----% of respondents claim that no clear fire instructions have been issued to them (Figure)

Inadequate safety signs displayed according to 60.7% of respondents in Table

Inadequate emergency exits according to 51.2% of respondents (Figure )

According to 83.3%, adequate fire fighting tool are available (figure )

Lack of fire drills according to 61.9% of respondents (figure )

Fire alarm system, but whether it is effective of not, is s very subjective question, as from the above information, it can be deduced that no drills have been carried out to test the effectiveness of the fire alarm system

Lack of evacuation plans according to 70.2% of respondents (Figure )

Hence, from the above observations, it can be deduced that the Council has not been award a Fire Certificate. This is confirmed by the 44 % of negative responses and 42.9% of neutral responses (Figure ).

A third observation made was the lack of proper hygiene provided to the employees (Table ). Without proper welfare facilities, workers may feel that their needs are not being catered by management .

The lack of separate sanitary conveniences according to 81% of respondents, indicates a violation of Section 39 of the OSHA 2005 where it has been stipulated that each organization has to make provision for separate and clean sanitary conveniences which are well lighted and ventilated for each gender. This creates a lack of privacy for members of both gender and this can lead to much discomfort among them.

According to Section 41 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 2005 "suitable facilities for washing which shall include a supply of clean water, soap, clean towels or other suitable means of cleaning and drying, and the facilities shall be conveniently accessible and shall be kept in a clean and orderly condition". This shows that the Council is not complying with the law (67.9% respondents not satisfied).

The lack of provision of a mess (83.4%), which results in violating Section 44 of the OSHA 2005, leads to workers having their meals in the office itself. This causes the workstation to be untidy, resulting in poor housekeeping.

The lack of first aid box is noted with much concern. Coupled with the lack of display of emergency phone numbers (Figure 32), and a first aid box, in case of any incidents or accidents, there is a risk of employees not being given first aid treatment which can result in their condition being aggravated by the time they are taken to the Hospital.

A fourth observation made is the poorly designed workstations of workers (Table) . Out of the 61.9% of respondents who are not satisfied with the space allocated to them in the office (Figure 40), 75% are operational workers (Figure 41). This can be explained by the fact that they have to share their office space with other office equipment like the photocopiers, scanners, printers, which take up much office space. Also, ozone gas from these equipments can be very detrimental to the health of the employees.

Inadequate seating (68.2%) can cause musculoskeletal disorders as explained in the literature reviews. It can also be noted that not only of respondents, ergonomic computer equipments are not provided according to 57.9% of respondents, but they are not well positioned in the workstation. According to 66.9% of respondents, their computers are not directly in front of them when working. This can be explained by the cramped office space allocated to them, which causes them to strain to the sides to be able to work on the computer, causing MSD as explained before. Poor workstation design coupled with a lack of proper office accessories as indicated by the 74.8% of respondents, this makes office work more uncomfortable and tiresome and also injurious to the health of the workers.

This explains the 23.8% of workers who claim to suffer all the times while 36.9% occasionally suffer from pains and injuries (Figure). Respondents were asked to specify the reasons for their pains or illnesses, and it was found that many of them stated they suffer from back pain owing to poor seating arrangements and leg pains owing to lack of footrest, arm and wrist strains to work on the keyboard, repetitive clicking of the mouse resulting in pains in fingers and wrists and glare from computer screen resulting in headaches and eye irritations.

A fifth observation made is the poor interpersonal relationships of workers at the Council. Only 28.6% of respondents entertain good relationships with their colleagues (Table f). As has been noted in the statement of results, it was found that employees having more than 24 years of working experience at the Council tend to have better relationships among colleagues compared to the younger generation(those having less than 7 years of service are not on good terms with colleagues)

It was also found that all respondents having less than 7 years of service in the organization are operational workers. (figure 80) The younger generation tends to be more competitive as they have just joined the Council and are starting to build their career. As such, they are very ambitious which results in the office atmosphere being fraught with competition.

On the other hand, those enjoying more than 24 years of service in the organization are those having more than 42 years of age (Table 5). Hence, most of them have already reached the pinnacle of their careers which makes them less competitive vis a vis their colleagues.

Only 11.9% of respondents claim to be on good terms with their supervisors (Figure 47). One reason that could explain this is the bureaucratic system of management in place at the Council. As pointed out by Jerald Hage et al (1971:860) 'as organizations become more formalized and centralized, communication between persons in different departments tend to decrease'. Hence, owing to the hierarchical structure of the Council, the lower grade employees do not get to communicate much with the top management.

Another reason for the poor relationship with management is the discrimination about the distribution of tasks to the employees. 40.5% of respondents feel they are overloaded with work (figure 49). Figure 53 throws more light to this statement, as it was found that out of the 34.5% of respondents who claim to be suffering from discrimination at work, 96.6% are workers having less than 15 years of service at the Council and most of them stated that they are discriminated onthe distribution of tasks by their supervisors. They stated that they are allocated more and complicated tasks than their older colleagues.

58.3% of respondents feel they are working below their capabilities (figure50). An in-depth analysis (fig) shows that workers throughout all levels of the occupational hierarchy feel they are not working up to their level. It can be noted that even workers having less than 23 years of working experience at the Council feel they are not working up to their levels. Today, many employees of the Public Sector are well educated, but owing to the high standards and procedures in place by the LGSC, it is not easy to be awarded promotions.

This leads to frustration in workers that they are not achieving their desired position in the organisation. They feel they can do a much better job than the one that has been allocated to them. This explains the competitive behaviours among colleagues. This also leads to highly qualified and skilled employees leaving the Council as they find better job prospects in the private sector. This results in a brain drain of the organisation, which it will suffer in the future when it would lack qualified staff.

It has been found that 26.19% of respondents are harassed all the times and 30.95% who claim to be harassed occasionally (Figure). They were asked to specify the types of harassment they faced and many stated that they are verbally harassed by their superiors and members of the public. Some even stated they are harassed by their colleagues. As has been described before, harassment of bullying at work have a negative impact on the mental state and morale of the worker. Some workers stated that they have suffered from aggressive behaviours and even physically abuse by members of the public. This confirms the inadequate system of security in place at the Council by 64.3% of respondents (Table)

From the above information, it can be concluded that the Council's population is psychologically sick. Workers are faced with too much pressure at work to meet deadlines and they have to deal with verbal harassment from their supervisors to get the job done more quickly. This explains why 40.5% of respondents feel they have too much work to do.

As has been explained before, this leads to frustration, high level of stress which can be harmful to the health of workers. Coupled with this, there exist poor interpersonal relationships among workers. From Hawthorne studies, it can be said that it is not the physical conditions or the organization structure which affects performance but it was the quality of interpersonal relationships, particular workers' relationships with their superiors that help to boost morale and productivity.

Another observation made is the lack of health surveillance provided to the workers according to 96.4% of respondents (Figure ).

Another observation made was the lack of training provided according to 92.9% of the respondents (Figure ). Without proper training, workers would not be able to perform their works safely, resulting in the high rate of illnesses and injuries as shown in Figure……..

From the above observations, it can be deduced that risk assessments are not carried out as confirmed by 86.7% of respondents (Figure ). Had risk assessments been carried out, the hazards observed in the Council would have been identify and measures taken to eliminate them.

Coupled with this, 57.1% of respondents claim that accidents are not reported, registered or enquired into (figure ). This demonstrates poor accident reporting system resulting from a lack of communication between management and employees.

Another observation made is the absence of a well established Health and Safety Committee. Figure 9 substantiates the statement. 91.7% of respondents confirmed that there are no health and safety committee at the Council.

This hypothesis provide some explanations for the above mentioned shortcomings and non compliance of the laws detected. Had there been a Safety and Health Committee, it would have taken into account the grievances of the employees, devised a suitable training programme, establish a code of conduct for employees with regards to proper health and safety practices. It would have ensured that risk assessments and audits are carried out to identify hazards and reported to Committee for appropriate measures to be taken to control or eliminate them.

It has also been observed that overall, there is been a negative response (65.5%) about the health and safety practices at the Council (Figure ).

Summarizing the statements of results of the survey, based on literature reviews and linking the office environment, workstation design, hygiene facilities, safety and interpersonal relationships, there are ample proofs that the health and safety practices at the Municipal Council of Port Louis is very lacking. This results from a lack of management and the councillors' commitment and employees' participation, resulting from the stiffly hierarchical structure of the Council. This stems also from the lack of health and safety officer in the past.

Correlating the findings of the survey and the principles of the OHSMS described in the literature reviews, it can be said that there is an absence of a proper system of occupational health and safety management.

However, as has been stated earlier in this chapter, a Health and Safety Officer has recently been posted at the Council. With the collaboration of management, councillors and the employees, he will have the responsibility of setting up a proper OHSMS to enhance the health and safety practices at the Council. This can help build the psychological environment in which workers would feel healthy, secure, safe and most importantly, they will feel valued.