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Occupational Health and Safety

Essay by   •  April 19, 2018  •  Course Note  •  1,943 Words (8 Pages)  •  466 Views

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What is Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)?

  • Concerned with the organisation’s responsibility in relation to providing a healthy and safe work environment.

Key Features

  • Encompasses both physical and psychological aspects of health and safety.
  • Mainly concerned with health and safety of workers, but also other parties (e.g., customers, visitors)
  • Based on doing what is ‘reasonably practicable’ to ensure highest levels of health and safety

Deaths and injuries in the Workplace

  • Approximately 2900 work-related deaths and 650000 injuries in Australia every year.  
  • Annual economic loss of approximately $34 billion.  
  • Major injury causes: 
  • Mechanical failure, Being hit by a moving object, Harm by chemicals, Falls, trips and slips, Heat, radiation and electricity, Vehicle accidents  

Importance of OHS

  • Ensures that the organisation meets its responsibility to workers.  
  • Improves employee outcomes (e.g., commitment, morale).  
  • Makes the organisation more attractive to applicants.  
  • Reduces costs (e.g., insurance claims, absenteeism).  
  • Improves productivity.  
  • Meets legal requirements  

OHS Strategies

  • Obstructionist (economic)
  • Based on economic considerations only
  • Emphasis is on minimising costs and social responsibility
  • Defensive (economic and legal)
  • Based on economic and legal considerations
  • Do the minimum required by law and not more
  • Accommodative (economic, legal, ethical)
  • Based on economic, legal and ethical considerations  
  • Do what is required to meet legal obligations and to be perceived as ethical  
  • Proactive (economic, legal, ethical, discretionary)
  • Involves going beyond economic, legal and ethical considerations through discretionary actions that reinforce the company as a good corporate citizen  

Regulation of OHS

  • In Australia OHS activities are governed by legislation.  
  • This involves OHS Acts that involve broad duties and that are accompanied by Codes of Practice and regulations that address particular risks.  
  • Traditionally legislation has been state-based but this has created inconsistencies between states and added to complexities for organisations in multiple jurisdictions.  
  • Currently the new Work Health and Safety Act is being implemented as a uniform set of OHS laws across most states.
  • Features of the new Act:
  • Organisations have to ensure workplace safety for all types of workers engaged in organisational activities and other affected people.  
  • Workers are obliged to undertake reasonable care for themselves and others, and to cooperate with reasonable organisational instructions.  
  • Enforcement through a process of inspection, investigation, education and prosecution.  
  • Maximum fines of $3 million and custodial sentences for serious breaches.  
  • Safe Work Australia
  • Is an independent statutory agency set up in 2009 to replace the Australian Safety and Compensation Council (ASCC).  
  • Responsible for improving work health and safety and worker’s compensation arrangements across Australia  
  • Functions include developing national OHS policy, preparing and monitoring adoption of Acts and Codes, and conducting and publishing OHS research.  

Current health and safety issues

  • Fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workers offer family-sensitive rosters.
  • Terrorism
  • Sexual harassment
  • Smoking
  • Substance abuse
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Homebased workers
  • Workplace violence
  • Domestic violence
  • Workplace bullying (but some are playing the system for psychological injury compensation).
  • Work-family conflict.

Workplace Hazards

  • Workplace hazards are factors that expose individuals to possible injury or illness at work. Harm is the potential outcomes associated with the hazard.  
  • Physical hazards (e.g., heat, radiation, noise)  
  • Chemical hazards (e.g., asbestos)  
  • Ergonomic hazards (e.g., repetitive tasks, long hours)  
  • Psychsocial issues (e.g., bullying, harassment)  

Risk Assessment

  • Risk refers to the probability that the hazard will lead to harm and the severity of the consequences of the harm.  
  • Risk assessment involves: 
  • Identifying hazards
  • Assessing likelihood and consequence of harm
  • Deciding whether hazard can be eliminated
  • Controlling hazard so that it doesn’t result in harm  
  • Risk assessment should be conducted regularly, especially after workplace change.  
  • Trained assessors are more likely to notice hazards and are better at estimating risk.  

Risk Controls

  • Elimination  
  • Substitution  
  • Isolation  
  • Engineering controls  
  • Administrative controls  
  • Protective equipment  

OHS Management Systems

  • A systematic approach to managing health and safety that is comprised of three elements:
  • Organisation, responsibility and accountability
  • Consultative arrangements
  • Specific program elements  
  • Responsibility and accountability is shared among employees and managers (HR, line, senior and executive).  
  • Consultative arrangements are in place that involve OHS representatives and committees and that support employee participation.  
  • Specific OHS program elements include:
  • Health and safety rules and procedures
  • Training programs
  • Workplace inspections
  • Incident reporting and investigation
  • Data collection and analysis/record keeping
  • OHS promotion and information provision
  • Emergency procedures

Positive Safety Culture

  • Positive safety culture refers to values, attitudes and beliefs in relation to safety that are shared by an organisation’s members and that reflect a commitment to promoting safety.  
  • Key aspects:
  • OHS management systems
  • Management commitment to safety
  • Active employee involvement
  • Information systems that monitor and evaluate OHS performance  

Evaluating OHS Performance

  • Three types of measures include outcome, input and process measures .  
  • Outcome measures
  • Assess OHS outcomes such as lost time, near misses, and compensation claims and costs  
  • Example: Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate (LTIFR)  
  • LTIFR = # of injuries * 1000000/# of hrs worked in accounting period  
  • If 100 workers worked for 500 hours each and there were 4 accidents then LTIFR = (4*1000000)/(100*500) = 80 injuries per million work hours.  
  • Outcome measures are often included in annual reports and provide a general indication of OHS effectiveness.  

  • Input measures
  • Assess the input of stakeholders and other inputs into OHS  – Include measures such as senior management written commitments, OHS reports to the board, resource expenditure on OHS, and the numbers and qualifications of OHS specialist staff.  
  • Process measures
  • Assess the extent to which OHS management is being implemented.  
  • Focus on factors such as risk management (e.g., % of reported incidents investigated), participation (e.g., % of staff with adequate OHS training), monitoring and review (e.g., % of OHS systems audit recommendations implemented).

Employee Stress

  • Refers to a process by which an individual responds to the demands and pressures of the workplace.
  • Stress is caused by stressors – the stimuli and circumstances that initiate the stress process.  
  • Exposure to the stressor leads to changes in the person:
  • Physiological: Rapid heartbeat, increased blood pressure, dry mouth
  • Psychological: Feelings of tension, nervousness, anxiety  
  • Stress by itself is not necessarily bad, but excessive stress or stress over a long period can result in health problems.  

Work-Related Sources of Stress

  • Job-specific factors
  • Workload (Burnout: state of mental exhaustion vs. rust out vs. shift work)
  • Shiftwork
  • Role ambiguity
  • Interpersonal relationships at work
  • Poor relationships with superiors, subordinates and peers
  • Especially problematic in highly political organisations
  • Workplace bullying and harassment  
  • Physical environment
  • Excessive noise
  • Lighting
  • Temperature
  • Crowding and lack of privacy  
  • Organisational change
  • Change can cause uncertainty, require adaptation to new situations, and increase job insecurity  
  • Types of change that induce uncertainty include takeovers and mergers, downsizing, and new technology  

Personal Characteristics and Stress

  • Not all individuals are equally susceptible to stress; personality can influence how an individual reacts to stressors.  
  • ‘Big Five’ Personality Factors
  • Individuals who score higher on Neuroticism are more vulnerable to stress than individuals who score low on Neuroticism.  
  • Type A and Type B Personality Types
  • Type A: Competitive, time-conscious, impatient, perfectionist
  • Type B: Easy-going, relaxed, patient
  • Type A more likely to be stressed and create stress in others; also more susceptible to coronary heart disease than Type B.  

External Factors:

  • Economic conditions
  • Government laws and regulations
  • Travel
  • Community values
  • Crime

Consequences of Stress

  • Performance: Curvilinear relationship between stress and performance.  
  • Job attitudes: Stress is associated with greater job dissatisfaction  
  • Burnout: Over time stress leads to emotional exhaustion, cynicism and lower professional efficacy  
  • Physical effects: Stress is associated with both minor ailments (e.g., flu, migraine, back pain) and serious illness (e.g., hypertension, heart disease).  
  • Behavioural effects: Stress is associated with aggression, substance abuse and withdrawal.  

Stress Management Techniques

  • Stressor reduction (primary intervention)
  • Reduce or eliminate factor causing stress (e.g., less workload, more support)  
  • Effective but can be costly and impractical  
  • Stress management training (secondary intervention)
  • Change the way the person reacts to the stressor  
  • Cognitive-behavioural methods focus on changing beliefs about the situation  
  • Relaxation methods focus on modifying emotional response to the situation  
  • May also focus on other strategies (e.g., Exercise, diet, talk, planning and time management)  
  • Employee assistance programs (tertiary intervention)  
  • Focus on treating and rehabilitating employees who are experiencing stress

Current Issues on OHS

  • Workplace bullying
  • Refers to repeated unreasonable behaviours that create a hostile work environment.  
  • Can take many forms: Verbal humiliation, physical assault, making, setting impossible work targets, unreasonable demands, intrusive surveillance, etc.  
  • Can be done by one person or by a group; typically involves someone higher up as the bully (e.g., supervisor) can occur anywhere in the organisation.  
  • Factors that precipitate bullying include organisational cultures that emphasise conformity, jobs that have high levels of role ambiguity and role conflict along with low employee control, and authoritarian or laissez- faire leadership styles.  
  • Strategies for dealing with and preventing bullying include having a workplace bullying policy, having a system for handling complaints, training to increase awareness and implications of bullying, taking disciplinary actions against individuals/groups who engage in bullying.  
  • Workplace violence
  • Workplace violence is a prevalent issue in Australia, especially in the health, welfare, restaurant, education, retail, and road and rail transport industries.  
  • More recently, workplace homicides due to disgruntled workers have increased, especially in the U.S.  
  • Violence is precipitated by unfair treatment and an organisational culture that accepts aggressive behaviour.  
  • Workplace violence can be addressed through selection procedures
  • (e.g., reference checks), training managers to detect signs of violence
  • (e.g., verbal threats, frustration), HR policies, systems through which employees can report threats, and increased security  

optimum stimulation =stress (high performance)



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