OSH Act Requirement for Safe Work Processes and Conditions

OSH Act is an important legislation that governs occupational health and safety at the workplace.

It also specifies the qualify of standards for working environment. You may have seen on many occasions the sign "Safety First".

Occupational Safety and Health Act forms an important part of employment laws. In some countries such as Australia, this is referred to as "Occupational Health and Safety" or OHS.

It is said that poor concern for occupational and health matters indicates poor human resource management.

It is also said that this reflects the failure by many organizations to follow sound ethical and social responsibility principles.

Providing a safe and healthy working environment for your employees is an important organizational policy. People prefer to work at safe and healthy workplaces.

There are a number of reasons for the importance of OHS.

  • Accidents and sickness cause physical and mental suffering to your employees. These also affect members of their families.
  • Your organization will incur high costs due to lost man-hours, and high medical expenses.
  • You can lose experienced and skilled workers.
  • Insurance premiums can increase.
  • Failure to abide by OSH Act provisions can invite criminal action or civil suits, or both.
  • You will face the threat of industrial action from employee union or unions. Your organization cannot afford the negative publicity and the costs involved if your organization is found at fault.

OSH Act is one of the many concerns under human resources employment and industrial relations.

Making Safety as Part of Organizational Culture

OSH Act imposes safety standard requirements on organizations.

There are other legislation that may supplement the law on health, safety and environmental matters.

Ensure that you get to know this in the country where your organization carries out its business.

Aim for zero tolerance of accidents at work and zero incidence of work-related sicknesses.

Safety and health are the concern of everyone in your organization. Make it your constant concern.

Ensure that your employees know and understand their respective role and responsibility in every aspect of safety and health requirements.

As the employer, your organization is ultimately responsible for all health and safety issues.

And this responsibility will only end when the employee leaves or is terminated.

Why Do Accidents and Work-Related Illnesses Happen?

The causes vary from organization to organization. Limit or eliminate its occurrence at your workplace.

  • Poor safety and health concerns by some organizations
  • Safety system and procedures are not in place
  • Unsafe working system and procedures
  • Employees are given limited or no training on safety
  • Recklessness or negligence of employees in following safety rules
  • Working environment is not conducive, such as poor lighting and ventilation
  • Employers fail to provide proper tools and supports such as the right type of chair for people who use computers to do their jobs
  • Dangerous or hazardous substances are not stored properly in the right place, usually in a confined space
  • Employees are required to work for extended hours too many times
  • Poor concern by your workers for their own health
  • Failure to follow safety rules does not result in any penalty

Duties of Employer and Employee

OSH Act imposes duties on employers such as:

  • To provide a safe system of work
  • To provide a safe working environment
  • To make available adequate information on hazards
  • To provide training including skills training to enable supervisors to ensure successful implementation of work safely rules and procedures
  • To monitor and to take care of the health of employees
  • To monitor all matters related to employees' safety and health

These duties may vary from country to country and differences in statutory provisions. But there are similarities.

As an employer, your organization owes these duties to both to employees and non-employees such as independent contractors and visitors to your premises.

As an employee, you are duty-bound to -

  • Take care of your own safety and health
  • Take care of the health and safety of others
  • Cooperate with your employer in all aspects of safety requirements
  • Follow safety rules and procedures especially those directly related to your job

Comply with OSH Act Provisions

Ensure that your employees follow OSH Act Provisions, and every safety rules and procedures. This can reduce incidences of accidents at work.

Wearing protective clothing and equipment, adherence to speed limits, and obeying non-smoking signs are some of these.

Safety and health legislation usually provides for the formation of safety committees, appointment of safety representatives and safety officers.

These are compulsory for organizations that come within the description stated under the law. Legislation stipulates safety audits on installations especially where hazards are very likely to occur.

Check whether your organization is classified under the type of industries covered by safety and health regulation.

Know the industry your organization is involved in, the number of installations and the number of workers. These are some of the conditions under which safety committees and safety officers are required.

Petroleum installations, oil companies, transportation depots, factories, R & D laboratories are examples of such industries where safety standards are very stringent.

Health and Safety Committees

A health and safety committee is a joint employer-employee committee concerned with OSH Act matters.

Whether or not your organization is under statutory requirement to form a safety and health committee, it is advisable to have one.

This is especially important if your activities involve some degree of risk and a large workforce.

The functions of the committee include:

  • To review health and safety measures in line with new legislation and practices
  • To bring to the attention of management any unsafe working environment, system or procedure
  • To help the organization develop safe working system and processes
  • To monitor the use of protective clothing and equipments
  • To conduct safety inspections
  • To recommend steps to improve the health and safety rules and procedures

Managing Health and Safety at Work

Effectively manage the working environment in accordance with OSH Act requirements by doing the following.

  • Approved Safety Policy
  • Management commitment and leadership
  • Internal expertise
  • Implementation of training programs on all aspects of safety, health and environmental matters
  • Organizational-wide communication with follow up briefings to clarify every issue concerning employees' health and safety
  • Strategic planning to ensure achievement of the objectives of your safety policy
  • Commitment of employees to follow all safety rules and procedures to ensure their own safety and health, and the safety and health of others
  • Safety audit before preparing your Occupational Safety and Health Manual.

It is good for your organization to consider international standards on health and safety when implementing legislative provisions such as OSH Act.

Compliance with OSH Act requirements is necessary if and when you want to obtain certification of services quality based on internationally-recognized quality standards such as ISO Standards.

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