Occupational health and safety in the workplace

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What does occupational health and safety (OHS) refer to?

OHS is a discipline that involves many different specialised fields. OHS promotes and maintains the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being of workers in all occupations. It aims to protect workers from health risks, to prevent adverse effects on the health of workers caused by their working conditions and to place and maintain workers in an occupational environment adapted to physical and mental needs. In other words, OHS encompasses the social, mental and physical well-being of workers.

Why is OHS in the workplace important?

Most workers spend at least eight hours a day in the workplace, thus it plays a central role in people’s lives. Therefore, workplaces should be both safe and healthy, however, for many workers, this is not always the case. Workers all over the world are faced with many health hazards on a daily basis, such as dust, gases, noise, extreme temperatures etc.

It’s unfortunate that some employers assume little to no responsibility for the protection of their workers’ health and safety. Oftentimes, employers are not even aware that they have a moral and often legal responsibility to protect their workers. This results in many work-related accidents and diseases occurring in the workplace all over the world.

Additionally, health and safety regulations in the workplace are vital to the well-being of both the employees and employers. There are many hazards present in the workplace today, and it is the employer’s job to keep their employees safe when they are in the workplace.

Below are some key points that further indicate the importance of OHS in the workplace:

  1. The prevention of illness and injury
  2. Employee illnesses and injuries are greatly reduced when health and safety procedures are implemented in the workplace. These procedures that are put into place can help employees and employers to understand what hazards are present in the workplace. OHS training is essential as it will educate employees on the proper workplace procedures that are necessary to prevent possible injuries and illnesses.

  3. Health and safety hazards are reduced
  4. Any workplace can pose potential hazards for employees and employers. There are certain things in the workplace that can lead to injuries, for example, certain equipment and chemicals. Health hazards can include contamination of food as well as an outbreak of an infectious disease. If you work with chemicals or gases, there is always the risk of dangerous exposure for employees and employers. Therefore, it is very important to have specific emergency and evacuation plans in place in the event of such exposure.

  5. Serious consequences can be avoided
  6. If the workplace is deemed unsafe for employees, employers could face hefty fines or temporary closure of their business. If employers do not follow the necessary OHS procedures, it can have a negative impact on their business as they could lose money, employees, clients etc.

These negative impacts on your business can be entirely avoided if you realise the importance of having a health and safety programme implemented in your workplace that will promote and maintain employees’ health and well-being, ensuring that your business can continue to thrive.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. (E&OE)