OHS

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Occupational Health & Safety

Introduction

Workers’ health, safety, and welfare at work are protected by law, Employment Act 14, (e) states:-
‘An employee’s exercise or proposed exercise of the right to remove himself or herself from a work situation which he reasonably believes presents an imminent or serious danger to life or health.’
‘Do not constitute valid reason for dismissal or the imposition of disciplinary action’

Employers have a duty to protect their workers and keep them informed about health and safety issues.

As a worker, one has the responsibility to look after themselves and others.
If there is a problem, it should be discussed with the employer or the safety representative (shop steward) at workplace.

Duty of the employer

  • Employers have a duty under law to ensure; so as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees. This means that measures must be taken to reduce the potential risk to employees
  • An employer must consult employees and/or their representative on matters relating to their health, safety and welfare at work.
  • Provide a safe system of work with adequate welfare facilities.
  • Ensure that articles and dangerous substances are moved, stored and used safely.
  • Provide the relevant Personal Protective equipment suitable for the job

Duty of Workers

  • Cooperate with their employer on health and safety issues
  • Correctly use any work item provided by the employer , including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in accordance with training or instructions
  • Not interfering with or misusing anything provided for health, safety or welfare.

What are a risk and a hazard?

A hazard is anything that has the potential to result in harm to people, or damage to property or the environment.
On the other hand a risk is the probability of a worker suffering an injury or falling ill or damage to property or the environment as a result of exposure or contact.

IDENTIFYING HAZARDS

Dangerous conditions are generally of two types:
Safety hazards

Health hazards

Workers have always risked their lives and health to earn a living. Our history is full of examples of workers killed, maimed or diseased on the job.
Sometimes these human tragedies occurred swiftly. In other cases it took years before hazards such as dust, fumes, gases, noise, vibration, poor lighting or stress take their toll.
We have learnt the hard way that work can be dangerous to our health!
In the past, many workers took it for granted that hazards on the job were unavoidable. Today we believe that this kind of thinking is outdated and unacceptable.
"What use is a wage improvement if workers can't live to enjoy the wage increase?"
The same can be asked of pensions if workers are killed before they can enjoy retirement or better living conditions if workers are too sick to enjoy them.
The keys to victory over this issue are knowledge, organisation and mobilisation. Union strength is built on well-informed members working collectively.

Workers often know best about what is happening at their workplace. Here is a simple checklist a Union officer or Shop Steward can use to see if there are possible health and safety problems at work:

  • Is noise so loud that you have to shout to be heard by someone next to you?
  • Does the noise leave you with a ringing in your ears?
  • Do conditions make you feel dizzy, sleepy or give you a headache?
  • Does any dust make your throat dry or your eyes hurt?
  • Is any machinery or electrical wiring faulty?
  • Is anyone suffering from backaches, spasms or strains?
  • Is the lighting poor?
A YES to any of these questions could indicate that there is a safety or health hazard at that workplace. Talking with your work colleagues can give you an idea about things that might be causing them problems.

Control of hazards

The following is the order in which hazards/risks must be controlled
  • Eliminate the hazard/risk
  • Evaluate existing controls
  • Substitute
  • Guarding
  • Prevent and restrict access
  • Reduce exposure
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Education and training