Occupational health and safety at workplace - legislation

Human resources professionals are assuming health, safety, and security responsibilities within organizations. Such responsibilities include the identification of hazardous conditions and practices, exposure control and mitigation strategies, legal compliance, development of a safety culture, and measurement of health, safety and security program effectiveness.


Occupational health and safety is a cross-disciplinary area concerned with protecting the safety, health and welfare of people engaged in work or employment. The goal of all occupational health and safety programs is to foster a safe work environment. As a secondary effect, it may also protect co-workers, family members, employers, customers, suppliers, nearby communities, and other members of the public who are impacted by the workplace environment. It may involve interactions among many subject areas, including occupational medicine, occupational (or industrial) hygiene, public health, safety engineering,chemistry, health physics.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates the costs associated with repetitive strain injury (RSI) to businesses to be between $15 billion and $20 billion per year in the U.S. RSI in the workplace may be reduced by providing ergonomic workstation configuration and by providing appropriate pointing devices, monitors and keyboards to computer users.

USA.The National Whistleblower Center was established in 1988 to improve environmental protection, nuclear safety, and government and corporate accountability. Its primary goal is to ensure that disclosures about government or industry actions that violate the law or harm the environment are fully heard, and that the people who risk their careers to expose wrongdoing are defended.


Definition

Since 1950, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have shared a common definition of occupational health. It was adopted by the Joint ILO/WHO Committee on Occupational Health at its first session in 1950 and revised at its twelfth session in 1995. The definition reads: "Occupational health should aim at: the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being of workers in all occupations; the prevention amongst workers of departures from health caused by their working conditions; the protection of workers in their employment from risks resulting from factors adverse to health; the placing and maintenance of the worker in an occupational environment adapted to his physiological and psychological capabilities; and, to summarize, the adaptation of work to man and of each man to his job". This standard is based on the methodology known as Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA)

Human resources professionals are assuming health, safety, and security responsibilities within organizations. Such responsibilities include the identification of hazardous conditions and practices, exposure control and mitigation strategies, legal compliance, development of a safety culture, and measurement of health, safety and security program effectiveness.

Elements of Workplace Safety and Health and legislation

  • Safety: Involves protecting employees from injuries due to work-related accidents.
Facts [+]

India. The Factories act 1948  >> was enacted in the year 1948. The main objective of this law is to maintain  healthy, safety and welfare  of every employee at workplace  in factory  . According to this law any factory with above 500 workers should have separate welfare officer, factory with 1000 above workers should have separate  safety officer, for 500 workers should have ambulance facility and for above 250 workers canteen facility with concession should be provided.

Occupational Safety and Health Act 1970 is the law of United States governs safety and health of the employees  working in factories or companies. This law prescribe safety and health measures to be followed and implemented to ensure safety and healthy working environment where employees are working especially in manufacturing places. United States gives emphasis on mass production which is only possible only through use of high-level of machines where ensuring safety of employee become must according to this law.

Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 is the principle Act in Malaysia is "To make provision for ensuring the safety, health and welfare of employees at working environment, for protecting employees or workers against risks maintaining safety or health environment in connection with the activities relating to manufacturing process and to establish the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health.

USA. The Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in June 1938. The main objective of the law was to establish minimum standards of living necessary for health, efficiency, and well being of workers. A major provision of the act was the establishment of a minimum wage, initially 25 cents an hour, along with a maximum workweek of 44 hours. Child labor standards were also enacted.

The United States Department of Labor is a Cabinet department of the United States government responsible for occupational safety, wage and hour standards, unemployment insurance benefits, re-employment services, and some economic statistics. Many U.S. states also have such departments. The department is headed by the United States Secretary of Labor.

The Employment Standards Administration (ESA) is the largest agency within the U.S. Department of Labor. The ESA enforces and administers a wide array of employment and labor laws, such as wages and working conditions, child labor, overtime and family and medical leave, equal employment opportunity, workers' compensation, labor unions, and employment standards and practices.


TAIPEI:
Foxconn Technology Group, the top maker of Apple Inc's iPhones and iPads whose factories are under scrutiny over labour practices.
Working practices at Foxconn's huge plants in China came under intense scrutiny in 2010 after a series of suicides among young workers. Last June three workers died in an explosion at a Foxconn plant in Chengdu, western China.

In Jan 2012 New York Times published an investigation into working practices at Apple supplier's plants in China that documented poor health and safety conditions and long working hours. In response Apple said the Washington D.C.-based Fair Labor Association would monitor conditions at supplier plants.

The unintended costs associated with irregular schedules, night shifts and extended hours are eroding the profits of American businesses, according to a study by Circadian Technologies, Inc. The profit-eroding factors for businesses with shift operations include lower productivity, higher absenteeism, greater employee turnover, increased health care costs, and more job-related accidents.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is the government's principal fact-finding agency for labor economics and statistics. The BLS is an independent national statistical agency that collects, processes, analyzes, and disseminates essential statistical data to the American public, Congress, other federal agencies, state and local governments, business, and labor.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most dangerous jobs in America are: timber cutters, fishers, pilots and navigators, structural metal workers, drivers-sales workers, roofers, electrical power installers, farm occupations, construction laborers, and truck drivers.
On an average U.S. workday, 152 workers will lose their lives as a result of workplace injuries and illnesses, and nearly 12,000 more will be injured. The workplace fatality rate has been cut by nearly 78%  since the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) in 1970.


  • Health: Refers to the employees’ freedom from physical or emotional illness.
Facts [+]
U.S. companies pay significantly higher employee health care costs in comparison to all other industrialized nations. U.S. companies take two approaches to address the higher costs associated with health care. They look for ways to reduce or eliminate health care costs through changes in coverage levels. They also try to reduce the number of individuals covered by eliminating jobs.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), asthma costs nearly $14 billion in medical expenses and results in 14.5 million missed days of work for adults each year. Based on factors such as the prevalence of asthma, outdoor air quality, and smoking laws, AAFA identified the top three U.S. metro areas for the prevalence of asthma as Knoxville, Little Rock, and St. Louis.


Safety programs may be designed to accomplish their purposes in two primary ways. The first approach is to create a psychological environment and attitudes that promote safety. A strong company policy emphasizing safety and health is crucial. The second approach to safety program design is to develop and maintain a safe physical working environment.
  • Physical Conditions: Conditions resulting from the workplace environment that include occupational diseases and accidents, such as:
    • Repetitive motion injuries
    • Back pain
    • Cancer Etc.
  •  Psychological Conditions: Conditions resulting from the workplace environment that result from organizational stress and low quality of working life. These include:
    • Dissatisfaction, withdrawal
    • Mistrust in others, irritability

Safety Programs

Today, it has become clear that optimal health can generally be achieved through environmental safety, organizational changes, and different lifestyles.

a) Developing Safety Programs—Organizational safety programs require planning for prevention of workplace accidents. Plans may be relatively simple or more complex and highly sophisticated in order to fit the organization’s size. Top management’s support is essential if safety programs are to be effective. Tremendous economic losses can result from accidents.
  1. Job hazard analysis: The main goal of safety and health professionals is to prevent job-related injuries and illnesses.
  2. Employee involvement: One way to strengthen a safety program is to include employee input, which provides workers with a sense of accomplishment.

Facts [+]

Software employees, More hours spent in front of computer screens is increasing incidents of eye stress and strain. Suggestions for reducing eye strain include: reduce glare by positioning computer monitors away from windows, position screens five to nine inches below line of sight, use drops for dry eyes or contact lenses, take a 20-second break every 20 computer work minutes.


b) Accident Investigation—
Accidents can happen even in the most safety-conscious firms. Each accident, whether or not it results in an injury, should be carefully evaluated to determine its cause and to ensure that it doesn’t recur. The safety engineer and the line manager jointly investigate accidents—why, how, and where they occur and who is involved. Main causes that can create accidents at workplace are:

  • Chance occurrences
  • Unsafe working conditions
  • Unsafe acts by employees
  • Unsafe conditions
    • Physical conditions
      • Defective Equipment
      • Inadequate Machine Guards
      • Lack of Protective Equipment
    • Environmental conditions
      • Noise
      • Dust, Fumes
      • Stress
      • Unsafe behaviors
c) Evaluation of Safety Programs—perhaps the best indicator that a safety program is succeeding is a reduction in the frequency and severity of injuries and illnesses.

d) Rationale for Safety and Health Trends—Firms are spending an increasing amount of money on safety. Reasons include; (1) profitability—employees can produce only while they are on the job, (2) employee relations—firms with good safety records can attract and retain good employees, (3) reduced liability—an effective safety program can reduce corporate and executive liability, (4) marketing—a good safety record may well provide companies with a competitive edge, and productivity—(5) an effective safety program may boost morale and productivity while simultaneously reducing rising costs.


Coca- Cola Company Health & Welfare Facilities:

Medical (including vision), Dental, Accidental Death & Dismemberment, Group Life Insurance, Dependent Life Insurance, Flexible Spending Accounts, Business Travel Accident Insurance, Short-Term Disability, Long-Term Disability, Survivor's Benefits Program and an Employee Assistance Program with confidential counseling services.

Ways to manage Safe and Healthy environment in organization

To cope with physical hazards and other hazards such as stress, unsafe behavior, and poor health habits, employers often design comprehensive safety and health programs. Among these are safety programs, employee assistance programs, and wellness programs.

a. Safety Programs
A safe working environment does not just happen; it has to be created. The organizations with the best reputations for safety have developed well-planned and thorough safety programs.

b. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
EAPs are programs designed to help employees whose job performance is suffering because of physical, mental, or emotional problems.

c. Wellness Programs
As health care costs have skyrocketed over the last two decades, organizations have become more interested in preventative programs. A complete wellness program has three components:
  • It helps employees identify potential health risks through screening and testing.
  • It educates employees about health risks such as high blood pressure, smoking, poor diet, and stress.
  • It encourages employees to change their lifestyles through exercise, good nutrition, and health monitoring.
Facts [+]

Many organizations are using "wellness management" as a proactive approach to employee health benefits. The emphasis is to identify preventable, long-term health problems that represent significant medical expenses, with the goal of prevention versus treatment. Employees with potential health problems work with health educators and coaches to plan and track their health progress.


d. Smoking in The work place

Numerous studies have concluded that workplace smoking not only is hazardous to employees’ health, but also is detrimental to the firm’s financial health. Increased costs of insurance premiums, higher absenteeism, and lost productivity cost huge amount a year. These factors, along with rising opposition from nonsmokers and widespread local and state laws, have spurred many firms into action, and the trend continues.

Effective safety programs share the following features:
  • They include the formation of safety committee and participation by all departments within the company. Employees participate in safety decision and management carefully considers employee suggestions for improving safety.
  • They communicate safety with a multimedia approach that includes safety lectures, films, poster, pamphlets, and computer presentations.
  • They use incentives, rewards, and positive reinforcement to encourage safe behavior.
  • They communicate safety rules and enforce them.
  • They use safety directors and/or the safety committee to engage in regular self-inspection and accident research to identify potentially dangerous situations, and to understand why accidents occur and how to correct th em.

Policies to prevent workplace violence

Every organization should have a two-pronged policy in place to (a) prevent workplace violence and (b) to deal with violent incidents when they occur. An HR manager's major responsibility is to be certain that s election policies include careful screening and reference checking. Furthermore, the HR manager should take the lead to enforce policies pertaining to the fair treatment of employees. This may require training managers to recognize performance problems, refer troubled employees for counseling, and apply disciplinary procedures consistently.


 Benefits of a Safe and Healthy Workforce
  • More productivity
  • Increased efficiency and quality
  • Reduced medical and insurance costs
  • Lower workers’ compensation rates and payments
  • Greater workforce flexibility