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Occupational Health and Safety

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.

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." To know what are the hazards in the working area regarding health and safety is very essential for every one. 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.

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.

Occupational health and safety officers promote health and safety procedures in an organization. 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 organization. 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, organizations 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 organizations which use the service:

A safety professional
An occupational hygienist
An occupational physician
A work and organization specialist. (Hale, A et alia. 2004)

It shows in Table 1 (based on the European Network of Safety and Health Practitioner Organizations survey) that in Norway, 37 % of Health and Safety practitioners had an 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 US

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 recognize 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 s...

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