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Workplace Health and Safety in Brunei

Essay by   •  March 13, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  2,345 Words (10 Pages)  •  1,676 Views

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1. Introduction

Workplace safety and health have been few of the important factors in most countries. Over the past 30 years, many countries especially the developed countries have introduced workplace safety and health management (WSHM). However, some companies in developing countries including Brunei Darussalam seem to be having difficulties in putting WSHM into practice. Why is WSHM important? What are the benefits and challenges in practicing WSHM in Brunei? With WSHM, incredible changes and improvements could be been seen in the future.

Safety is defined in many ways differently. According to Taylor et al. (2004, p. 5), safety means a state of mind whereby employees are made aware of the possibility of injury at all times. Safety also means a state in which the risk of harm (to persons) or damage is limited to an acceptable level. In my own opinion, safety is when a person is free from danger or physical injury.

On the other hand, World Health Organisation (WHO) defined health as the general condition of a person in all aspects. In my own words, health means absent or free from diseases and infirmity. In general, workplace safety and health is a management which employers focus on the safety and health of employees.

2. Importance of WSHM

The importance of WSHM can be seen by the benefits that are brought to the organisations after implementing this management. Employee health and safety are of concern, both to the employer and to the employee. The benefits of WSHM in terms of time, money, and productivity can be quite significant (Cogwell and Kaczmarek, 2004). WSHM is so important that it can even encourage employers to do more than just obey with regulations to prevent occupational injuries and illnesses (Snyder, 2005).

Bratton and Gold (1999, p. 131) mentioned that other than ensuring employees are always in safe condition, there are also strong economic reasons for taking health and safety seriously. For instance, in an unhealthy and unsafe workplace, the economic for that workplace is most likely to be down as the costs of work-related accidents will be high. Accident is defined as an unplanned event which resulted in an injury or damage. When accident happens, indirect cost increases too. This is due to the cost for retaining a replacement employee, and the training cost of the new employee.

WSHM focuses more on the effectiveness of the practice rather than described in writing. The practice will be considered as effective when every employee follows the rules and regulations set up by the employer. Furthermore, WSHM can identify the hazards and evaluate the health and safety risks, and try to create a suitable working environment. A suitable working environment is known as ERGONOMICS.

Normally, many companies which do not implement WSHM face the situation of their employees being exposed to dangerous working condition (Tan, 2009). This is a duty for employers to protect their employees from harms and dangers as employees are the most valuable assets at any workplace regardless of an office or construction site. Other than that, it also raise the morale of the employees as knowing being safely and healthy while working release their stress. An unsafe and unsuitable workplace may to lead to accidents and work-related disease which can make the employees and their family members suffer physically, financially and psychologically. This is why WSHM is important especially in construction areas.

3. The Challenges of WSHM in Brunei

Many countries face difficulties while trying to practice WSHM. It can be due to many reasons such as culture differences, cost of implementing WSHM is too expensive and more. Brunei currently is facing these challenges too. Walters and Nichols (2006, p. 244) reported that many employees' views are often ignored by the workplace health and safety manager, no consultation is provided, and less communication or involvement in practicing WSHM. An overview of Brunei country profile was provided in CIA Factbook (2002) and it is stated that Brunei focuses more on employees, construction site and accident notifications. Apart from that, there are even more challenges exist such as smoking in workplace and more. Nevertheless, these challenges can be overcome with some actions and events.

3.1. Absence of Safety Law and Lack of Employees' Rights

Brunei has introduced a new regulation named "Workplace Safety and Health Order 2009" (Kon, 2010). This regulation is introduced to protect the welfare of employees mentioned by Brunei's Ministry of Home Affairs. It is hoped that employee's situation will be improved, and cases of injuries, accidents and death will reduce. Kon (2010) also mentioned that a raise in accidents cases has increased from 120 to 139 by 2009. However, this regulation has yet to be commenced. In addition, some employers and employees do not take this matter seriously and continues to ignore the importance of it. Another reason is that some small companies are unable to afford the practicing of WSHM as the cost is high. For instance, the high training cost which requires sending the employee overseas for better training.

It might be too hard for the small companies, but considering the long-term effect in the future, there will be more benefits gained. This is because companies still have to pay for the compensation of the injury employees, selecting and training the new employee and, the cost of retaining a replacement employee. All these costs will be a burden in the future as accidents cannot be predictable. If a company has over 500 employees with an average of 5 employees get into an accident per month, the compensation cost will become a loss at the end of the year.

Tan (2009) mentioned that due to the absenteeism of safety and health law, the employees in Brunei are working at disadvantages. Without the law, employers expect their employees to work overtime without paying them the compensations. Like in western countries, the employees there only need to work for the maximum hours per week. They are given the rights to choose whether to work overtime or not. Compensation will be given to the employees who work overtime in western countries but, in Brunei, employees are forced to stay back to work and not being paid accordingly (Tan, 2009). This is related to culture differences. Different culture has different ways of doing things. In Brunei, people tend to forget about the importance of WSHM and leave it as it is whereas western countries believed in

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