- Occupational safety and health
Occupational safety and health 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 safety and health 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.
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)
Relationship to occupational health psychology
Occupational health psychology (OHP), a related discipline, is a relatively new field that combines elements of occupational health and safety, industrial/organizational psychology, and health psychology. The field is concerned with identifying work-related psychosocial factors that adversely affect the health of people who work. OHP is also concerned with developing ways to effect change in workplaces for the purpose of improving the health of people who work. For more detail on OHP, see the section on occupational health psychology.
Reasons for Occupational health and safety
The event of an incident at work (such as legal fees, fines, compensatory damages, investigation time, lost production, lost goodwill from the workforce, from customers and from the wider community).
- Legal - Occupational requirements may be reinforced in civil law and/or criminal law; it is accepted that without the extra "encouragement" of potential regulatory action or litigation, many organizations would not act upon their implied moral obligations.
They recognize hazards and measure health and safety risks, set suitable safety controls in place, and give recommendations on avoiding accidents to management and employees in an organisation. This paper looks at the main tasks undertaken by OHS practitioners in Europe, Australia and the USA, and the main knowledge and skills that are required of them. “Like it or not, organisations have a duty to provide health and safety training. But it could involve much more than you think.” (Damon, Nadia. 2008. ‘Reducing The Risks’, Training and Coaching Today, United Kingdom, pg.14)
An effective training program can reduce the number of injuries and deaths, property damage, legal liability, illnesses, workers' compensation claims, and missed time from work. A safety training program can also help a trainer keep the required OSHA-mandated safety training courses organized and up-to-date.
Safety training classes help establish a safety culture in which employees themselves help promote proper safety procedures while on the job. It is important that new employees be properly trained and embrace the importance of workplace safety as it is easy for seasoned workers to negatively influence the new hires. That negative influence however, can be purged with the establishment of new, hands-on, innovative effective safety training which will ultimately lead to an effective safety culture. A 1998 NIOSH study concluded that the role of training in developing and maintaining effective hazard control activities is a proven and successful method of intervention.
Safety Professionals in Europe
In Norway, the main required tasks of an Occupational Health and Safety Practitioner include:
• Systematic evaluations of the working environment
• Endorsing preventative measures which eliminate reasons for illnesses in the work place
• Giving information in the subject of employees’ health
• Giving information on occupational hygiene, ergonomics and also environmental and safety risks in the work place (Hale A, Ytehus I, 2004, ‘Changing requirements for the safety profession: roles and tasks’, Journal of Occupational Health & Safety – Australia and New Zealand)
In the Netherlands, required tasks for health and safety staff are only summarily defined, and include:
• Voluntary medical examinations
• A consulting room on the work environment for the workers
• Health check assessments (if needed for the job concerned) (Hale, A et alia. 2004)
‘The main influence on the Dutch law on the job of the safety professional is through the requirement on each employer to use the services of a certified working conditions service to advise them on health and safety’ (Hale, A et alia. 2004). A ‘certified service’ must employ sufficient numbers of four types of certified experts to cover the risks in the organisations which use the service:
• A safety professional
• An occupational hygienist
• An occupational physician
• A work and organisation specialist. (Hale, A et alia. 2004)
It shows in Table 1 (based on the European Network of Safety and Health Practitioner Organisations [ENHSPO] survey to) that in Norway, 37 % of Health and Safety practitioners had a MSc education level, and 14% in the Netherlands; 44% were BSc graduates and 63% in the Netherlands; and 19% were of a Technician level and 23% in the Netherlands (Hale, A et alia. 2004).
Safety Professionals in the USA
The main tasks undertaken by the OHS practitioner in the USA include:
• Develop processes, procedures, criteria, requirements, and methods to attain the best possible management of the hazards and exposures that can cause injury to people, and damage property, or the environment;
• Apply good business practices and economic principles for efficient use of resources to add to the importance of the safety processes;
• Promote other members of the company to contribute by exchanging ideas and other different approaches to make sure that every one in the corporation possess OHS knowledge and have functional roles in the development and execution of safety procedures;
• Assess services, outcomes, methods, equipment, workstations, and procedures by using qualitative and quantitative methods to recognise the hazards and measure the related risks;
• Examine all possibilities, effectiveness, reliability, and expenditure to attain the best results for the company concerned
(Board of Certified Safety Professionals, 2006, “Examination Guide” accessed 20 April at http://www.bcsp.org/bcsp/media/exam_guide.pdf)
Knowledge required by the OHS professional in USA include:
• Constitutional and case law controlling safety, health, and the environment
• Operational procedures to plan/ develop safe work practices
• Safety, health and environmental sciences
• Design of hazard control systems (i.e. fall protection, scaffoldings)
• Design of recordkeeping systems that take collection into account, as well as storage, interpretation, and dissemination
• Mathematics and statistics
• Processes and systems for attaining safety through design
(Board of Certified Safety Professionals, 2006)
Some skills required by the OHS professional in the USA include (but are not limited to):
• Understanding and relating to systems, policies and rules
• Holding checks and having control methods for possible hazardous exposures
• Mathematical and statistical analysis
• Examining manufacturing hazards
• Planning safe work practices for systems, facilities, and equipment
• Understanding and using safety, health, and environmental science information for the improvement of procedures
• Interpersonal communication skills
(Board of Certified Safety Professionals, 2006)
The differences in each location
Similar to the findings of the ENHSPO survey conducted in Australia, the Institute of Occupational Medicine found that in the UK, there is a need to put a greater emphasis on work-related illness (Anonymous. 2008. ‘Occupational Health’, Health and Safety News: In Brief, Vol 60, Iss. 3; UK. pg. 6). Its been shown that in Australia and the USA that a major responsibility of the OHS professional is to keep company directors and managers aware of the issues that they face in regards to Occupational Health and Safety principles and legislation. However, in Europe, it has been shown that this is where they are lacking. “Nearly half of senior managers and company directors do not have an up-to-date understanding of their health and safety-related duties and responsibilities.” (Paton, Nic. 2008. ‘Senior Managers Fail to Show Competence in Health and Safety’ Occupational Health, Vol. 60, Iss. 3; pg. 6)
National implementing legislation
Different states take different approaches to legislation, regulation, and enforcement.
In the European Union, member states have enforcing authorities to ensure that the basic legal requirements relating to occupational health and safety are met. In many EU countries, there is strong cooperation between employer and worker organisations (e.g. Unions) to ensure good OSH performance as it is recognized this has benefits for both the worker (through maintenance of health) and the enterprise (through improved productivity and quality). In 1996 the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work was founded.
Member states of the European Union have all transposed into their national legislation a series of directives that establish minimum standards on occupational health and safety. These directives (of which there are about 20 on a variety of topics) follow a similar structure requiring the employer to assess the workplace risks and put in place preventive measures based on a hierarchy of control. This hierarchy starts with elimination of the hazard and ends with personal protective equipment.
In the UK, health and safety legislation is drawn up and enforced by the Health and Safety Executive and local authorities (the local council) under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Increasingly in the UK the regulatory trend is away from prescriptive rules, and towards risk assessment. Recent major changes to the laws governing asbestos and fire safety management embrace the concept of risk assessment.
In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 created both the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA, in the U.S. Department of Labor, is responsible for developing and enforcing workplace safety and health regulations. NIOSH, in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is focused on research, information, education, and training in occupational safety and health.
OSHA have been regulating occupational safety and health since 1971. Occupational safety and health regulation of a limited number of specifically defined industries was in place for several decades before that, and broad regulations by some individual states was in place for many years prior to the establishment of OSHA.
In Canada, workers are covered by provincial or federal labour codes depending on the sector in which they work. Workers covered by federal legislation (including those in mining, transportation, and federal employment) are covered by the Canada Labour Code; all other workers are covered by the health and safety legislation of the province they work in. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), an agency of the Government of Canada, was created in 1978 by an Act of Parliament. The act was based on the belief that all Canadians had "...a fundamental right to a healthy and safe working environment." CCOHS is mandated to promote safe and healthy workplaces to help prevent work-related injuries and illnesses.
In Malaysia, the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) under the Ministry of Human Resource is responsible to ensure that the safety, health and welfare of workers in both the public and private sector is upheld. DOSH is responsible to enforce the Factory and Machinery Act 1969 and the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994.
In the People's Republic of China, the Ministry of Health is responsible for occupational disease prevention and the State Administration of Work Safety for safety issues at work. On the provincial and municipal level, there are Health Supervisions for occupational health and local bureaus of Work Safety for safety. The "Occupational Disease Control Act of PRC" came into force on May 1, 2002. and Work safety Act of PRC on November 1, 2002. The Occupational Disease Control Act is under revising. The prevention of occupational disease is still in its initial stage compared with industried countries such as the US or UK.
Identifying Safety and Health Hazards
Hazards, risks, outcomes
The terminology used in OSH varies between states, but generally speaking:
- A hazard is something that can cause harm if not controlled.
- The outcome is the harm that results from an uncontrolled hazard.
- A risk is a combination of the probability that a particular outcome will occur and the severity of the harm involved.
“Hazard”, “risk”, and “outcome” are used in other fields to describe e.g. environmental damage, or damage to equipment. However, in the context of OSH, “harm” generally describes the direct or indirect degradation, temporary or permanent, of the physical, mental, or social well-being of workers. For example, repetitively carrying out manual handling of heavy objects is a hazard. The outcome could be a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) or an acute back or joint injury. The risk can be expressed numerically (e.g. a 0.5 or 50/50 chance of the outcome occurring during a year), in relative terms (e.g. "high/medium/low"), or with a multi-dimensional classification scheme (e.g. situation-specific risks).
Hazard analysis or hazard assessment is a process in which individual hazards of the workplace are identified, assessed and controlled/eliminated as close to source (location of the hazard) as reasonable and possible. As technology, resources, social expectation or regulatory requirements change, hazard analysis focuses controls more closely toward the source of the hazard. Thus hazard control is a dynamic program of prevention. Hazard-based programs also have the advantage of not assigning or implying there are "acceptable risks" in the workplace. A hazard-based program may not be able to eliminate all risks, but neither does it accept "satisfactory" -- but still risky—outcomes. And as those who calculate and manage the risk are usually managers while those exposed to the risks are a different group, workers, a hazard-based approach can by-pass conflict inherent in a risk-based approach.
Modern occupational safety and health legislation usually demands that a risk assessment be carried out prior to making an intervention. It should be kept in mind that risk management requires risk to be managed to a level which is as low as is reasonably practical.
This assessment should:
- Identify the hazards
- Identify all affected by the hazard and how
- Evaluate the risk
- Identify and prioritize appropriate control measures
The calculation of risk is based on the likelihood or probability of the harm being realized and the severity of the consequences. This can be expressed mathematically as a quantitative assessment (by assigning low, medium and high likelihood and severity with integers and multiplying them to obtain a risk factor), or qualitatively as a description of the circumstances by which the harm could arise.
The assessment should be recorded and reviewed periodically and whenever there is a significant change to work practices. The assessment should include practical recommendations to control the risk. Once recommended controls are implemented, the risk should be re-calculated to determine of it has been lowered to an acceptable level. Generally speaking, newly introduced controls should lower risk by one level, i.e., from high to medium or from medium to low.
Common workplace hazard groups
- Mechanical hazards include:
- By type of agent:
- By type of damage:
- Other physical hazards:
- Chemical hazards include:
- Psychosocial issues include:
- Work-related stress, whose causal factors include excessive working time and overwork
- Violence from outside the organisation
- Bullying, which may include emotional and verbal abuse
- Sexual harassment
- Exposure to unhealthy elements during meetings with business associates, e.g. tobacco, uncontrolled alcohol
In Canada, Hazards are typically categorized into one of six groups:
1. Safety (moving machinery, working at heights, slippery surfaces, mobile equipment, etc.)
2. Ergonomic (material handling, environment, work organization, etc.)
3. Chemical Agents
4. Biological Agents
5. Physical Agents(noise, lighting, radiation, etc.)
6. Psychosocial(stress, violence, etc.)
Occupational health and safety has come a long way from its beginnings in the heavy industry sector. It now has an impact on every worker, in every work place, and those charged with managing health and safety are having more and more tasks added to their portfolio. The most significant responsibility is environmental protection. The skills required to manage occupational health and safety are compatible with environmental protection, which is why these responsibilities are so often bolted onto the workplace health and safety professional.
- ANSI Z10
- Environment, Health and Safety - EHS, HSE, SHE or HES
- Material safety data sheet - MSDS
- Mountain & Plains ERC - A NIOSH-Funded Education and Research Center in Colorado
- Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems - OHSMS
- Occupational Medicine Specialists of Canada
- OHSAS 18001
- Public safety
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (Canada)
- Congressional Office of Compliance (US)
- European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU)
- Government & Educational OHS Resources (Australia)
- Health and Safety Executive (UK)
- Health for Work Adviceline for small businesses (UK)
- Information Center of Occupational Safety and Health (Israel)
- Institute of Occupational Safety_and_Health 
- International Labour Organisation (United Nations)
- KOSHA:Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency (South Korea)
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (US)
- National Institute of Occupational Health (India)
- National Institute of Occupational Health (Norway)
- National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH Malaysia) (Malaysia)
- NIOSH Certification Sdn Bhd (NIOSH Malaysia Subsidiary)
- National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Sri Lanka)
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (US)
- Safe Work Australia (Australia)
- Work Safe BC formerly Workers' Compensation Board of BC (WCB) (British Columbia, Canada)
- Workplace Safety & Health Council (Singapore)
- Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (Ontario, Canada)
- WorkSafe Victoria, Australia
- Workplace Safety & Health Council, Singapore
- Health and Safety at Work Act (UK)
- Indonesian Act No.1/1970 about Occupational Safety at Work 1970 (Indonesia)
- Occupational Safety and Health Act (US)
- Occupational Health and Safety Act 1991 (Australia)
- Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 (Malaysia)
- Timeline of major U.S. environmental and occupational health regulation
- Workplace Safety and Health Act (Singapore)
- Castillo v. Case Farms of Ohio
- Construction safety
- Environmental Health
- Ergonomics, Participatory Ergonomics
- Hazard analysis
- Hazard prevention
- Industrial hygiene
- Infection control
- Mine safety
- Occupational health psychology
- Process Safety Management
- Public health
Workplace environmental standards
- ISO 8518
- ISO 8672
- ISO 8760 - ISO 8762
- ISO 9486 - ISO 9487
- ISO 11041
- ISO 11174
- ISO 14001
- ISO 15202
- ISO 15767
- ISO 16107
- ISO 16200
- ISO 16702
- ISO 16740
- ISO 17733 - ISO 17734
- ISO 17737
- ISO 20552
- MS 1722 (Malaysia Standard)
- Active Agenda is a free and open source project to reduce workplace risk.
- Advocates for Injured Workers (AIW)
- Asbestosis - Compensation and Liability Disputes
- Disability Management
- Examinetics - mobile occupational health screening
- Hazards a UK-based, independent, union-friendly health and safety magazine
- Institute of Occupational Medicine
- Juliana Mateo Foundation for Disabled Farmworkers
- NIOSH Power Tools Database
- Occupational hygiene
- Occupational illness
- Occupational rehabilitation
- Occupational risk assessment
- Occupational therapy
- Prevention through design
- Safe-In-Sound Award Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Award
- Safeguard (magazine) (in New Zealand)
- Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health
- Seoul Declaration on Safety and Health at Work
- Workers' compensation
- ^ Oak Ridge National Lab Safety Document http://www.ornl.gov
- ^ Everly, G. S., Jr. (1986). An introduction to occupational health psychology. P. A. Keller & L. G. Ritt (Eds.), Innovations in clinical practice: A source book, Vol. 5 (pp. 331-338). Sarasota, FL: Professional Resource Exchange.
- ^ OSHA Outreach Resources
- ^ Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
- ^ About NIOSH. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.
- ^ "Occupational Disease Control Act of the People's Republic of China" http://www.gov.cn/banshi/2005-08/01/content_19003.htm
- ^ "The Work Safety Act of the People's Republic of China" http://www.gov.cn/ztzl/2006-05/27/content_292725.htm
- Koester, Frank (April 1912). "Our Stupendous Yearly Waste: The Death Toll of Industry". The World's Work: A History of Our Time XXIII: 713–715. http://books.google.com/books?id=Vv--PfedzLAC&pg=PA713. Retrieved 2009-07-10.
- Ladou, Joseph (2006). Current Occupational & Environmental Medicine (4th ed.). McGraw-Hill Professional. ISBN 0-07-144313-4.
- Roughton, James (2002). Developing an Effective Safety Culture: A Leadership Approach (1st ed.). Butterworth-Heinemann. ISBN 0-7506-7411-3.
- OHSAS 18000 series: (derived from a British Standard, OHSAS is intended to be compatible with ISO 9000 and 14000 series standards, but is not itself an ISO standard)
- (US) CDC page on Workplace Safety & Health
- (EU) Health-EU Portal - Health and Safety at work
- European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology
- ILO International Occupational Safety and Health Information Centre
- Society for Occupational Health Psychology
- UK Health & Safety Executive - Getting started for Small Business
- IOSH Occupational Health Toolkit
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