HR Pulse




Menu Style


How can organisations ensure better health and safety in the workplace?

John Kilian

Currently, Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) is receiving increasing attention in many industries. Business owners and employees are realising the far-reaching consequences that the changing legislation can have on their businesses and workplaces in general.

What are OSH risks?

OSH risks can include anything from transportation accidents, workplace violence, slipping and falling, chemical and gas exposure, to being struck by objects, electrocution, fire, repetitive motion injuries and hearing loss. Not only can these incidents be detrimental to your employees but these can also have far-reaching consequences for your organisation.

What are the possible consequences of workplace accidents?

Accidents in the workplace can cause a loss of productivity that will affect your bottom line - not to mention the legal risks. Many aspects of your business are strictly regulated and subject to Department of Labour health and safety inspections without prior notice.

Furthermore, failure to meet these regulations could result in hefty fines or your business being shut down. If your organisation’s premises is damaged, and your business isn’t compliant with OSH regulations, your insurance company could refuse to pay you out.

Certain risks are more likely in some working environments

Consequently, it is essential to identify the risks that could affect your organisation and employees. For example, providing hard hats, safety shoes and harnesses is non-negotiable on a mining or construction site. But in an office environment, for example, you need to have:

  • Adequate exit signage;
  • An easily-accessible fire extinguisher; and
  • A well-rehearsed evacuation strategy.

Another important safety concern that may seem trivial to some, but which is still very important, is the comfort of employees at computer workstations. An employee is entitled to sit at a height that allows his or her legs to reach the ground, with a wrist rest, while avoiding strain to the neck, eyes, or back. Employees should also be supplied with cushions that provide essential lower back support.

Complete H&S compliance can seem like an insurmountable task to any HR professional

However, the first move to ensuring that your company is compliant is easier than you think.

Here are three simple steps that your organisation can take to increase OSH compliance today:

Step 1: Job risk analysis

Job risk analysis is concerned with how a job is done and the kinds of equipment people are using to complete work tasks. This process involves examining workplace procedures and facilities in a critical and objective manner.

Step 2: Risk mapping

Risk mapping involves examining the actual physical workplace environment. For example, if there is an area where liquids might spill, you could include handrails to prevent slips and falls, and provide adequate warning signage.

Step 3: Follow guidelines and recommendations to ensure you are fully legally compliant

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1993, you, the employer, must bring about and maintain, as far as reasonably practicable, a safe and risk-free work environment. As such, you must take the necessary legal precautions to protect your organisation, your employees and the public.

Finally, you may also decide to employ an OSH professional who can assist in performing a full safety audit of your organisation, identifying possible shortfalls or potential risks.

Author: John Kilian is an SHE and risk management consultant at Safe Working Practice (SWP), which provides a management tool and safe systems of work, including: Safety files, evacuation plans and emergency procedures, audits, health and safety officers, inspections, documentation, advice and training to a wide range of organisations.