In the last few weeks, we came across media reports of accidents and injuries that are workplace-related and some affecting members of the public, with devastating results.
What are our learnings from these as organisations? Could they have been avoided or in the least minimised?
How about the recent cases of spousal killings? Do we have processes in place to assist our employees to deal with their social issues that can also have an impact on work? Having a sound organisational Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Management system can minimise or even eliminate some of the risks that can result in injuries and accidents in the workplace. Its development should include consultation and participation by workers and their representatives.
This is based on the principle of Plan-Do-Check-Act.
Here at home where we do not have a specific Occupational Health and Safety Act, a good system can be a bridge between leadership and workers in having a safe work space. It is a base for developing organisational specific OHS policy, setting goals and allocation of resources.
Our workplaces have unique hazards and risks that should be identified and assessed. Controls strategies with monitoring processes for continuous improvement can then be developed and implemented. These can be in the form of procedures, training, equipment, personal protective devices and clothing, among others. In the case of psychosocial issues, an employee assistance programme can be established.
What are the other benefits of having this system in place?
There are legal requirements that a system can help us to comply with, including our obligations to interested parties such as unions, customers and business partners. Some legal obligations are specific to different industries with regulations spelling out expectations. Do familiarise yourself with yours. There are voluntary standards through BOBS and the International Standards Organisation that can give you a competitive edge globally if you are certified.
A positive image can also sell your business to potential employees. Being known as that place with fatal injuries to stakeholders and members of the public is undesirable and can result in losses. Some medical conditions caused by hazards in the workplace can show signs 20 years or more post exposure. For example, lung cancer from exposure to asbestos fibres. With other conditions, there may be a thin line between the cause being workplace exposure or just an aging process, for example, back pains and hearing loss.
Hence, a system in place does not only protect employees but you as an organisation against claims that can come through many years post termination. Having a process for employees to adhere to, e.g. how to operate an equipment or use of protective devices can result in less accidents, less injuries or with less severity, and eventually a reduction in claims for compensation and reduced insurance premiums.
When employees are healthy from reduced exposure to hazards, there will be less times off sick, more productivity and better profits. Therefore, as 2023 begins, develop and implement an Occupational Health and Safety System in your workplace, for safety is not an accident.
Dr Tawana is a registered Occupational Health and Safety Specialist and ISO 45001 Auditor.She chairs the National Compensation Board.
Contact her for OHS solutions at firstname.lastname@example.org.