Some workplace environments are naturally going to be considered more dangerous than others, meaning that someone working in an industrial or agricultural occupation is likely to be more exposed to dangerous working conditions than a person working in an administrative role in an office.
Regardless of the obvious risks associated with perhaps a blue-collar worker in a working in a chemical plant compared to a white-collared counterpart who is based in an office, there are strict rules and regulations that have to be adhered to in order to protect the safety of workers everywhere.
If you run a business then you will hopefully be fully aware of your obligations regarding health and safety at work, but there is more to be gained than simply complying with the minimum standards required by law.
Occupational safety & health
Let’s look to the United States if laws are lacking in the Middle East: The federal government created the Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSH) to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women.”
The OSH Act subsequently created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) which operates at federal level and allows for individual states to run their own safety and health programs, on the proviso that their own schemes were at least equal if not better than the federal program put in place.
There are teams of federal and state safety personnel who work to educate employers as well as provide compliance assistance, together with enforcement action when the required standards are not being met.
Working practices have greatly improved in recent years as people have become aware of the risk of exposure to dangerous and hazardous carcinogens and the direct link the represent to cancers such as peritoneal mesothelioma, which results from exposure to high levels of asbestos, maybe many years ago.
Read our story here on how Israelis were dangerously exposed to asbestos during a fire this past summer
If you want to not just achieve a minimum standard of safety and health for your workers but provide a high level of confidence amongst your employees that you are raising the bar as high as possible, this will put your business in with a competitive edge when it comes to retaining workers and allowing your firm to grow through having a happy and motivated workforce.
Some steps that you can take to improve health and safety in your workplace.
1. Plan and inspect
Your key role as an employer when it comes to safety and health, is to identify potential hazards in the workplace and take the required steps to eliminate or minimize exposure to them. Create and develop your own safety plan that becomes a blueprint for safe working practices and tell all employees what you expect from them in return for your concerted efforts to ensure their safety.
The sort of hazards that you need to focus on are items like toxic industrial cleaning products, operating machinery and lifting heavy items or working where there is a risk of exposure to heights.
Your business may have its own unique set of challenges to address but the principle remains the same, adopt and follow a safety plan and then carry out regular inspections to identify any issues.
If you work with tools or machinery, then there should be regular inspections to ensure that they are in good working order and that any employee using these items, has received adequate training and is aware of the correct safety procedures.
2. Regular dialogue
It is good policy to encourage regular dialogue with your workers regarding health and safety practices and you can also nurture a culture within your business where employees feel free to express their ideas and thoughts on how to improve safety in the workplace. Ask them if they are worried about a practice or product and how it can be handled better.
3. Always investigate incidents
Even if there is a minor accident that does not result in a serious injury or any harm being caused, it is still advisable to investigate any incident, no matter how trivial or non-threatening it turns out to be. Having an accident investigation procedure will help to identify potential weaknesses in your policy and may help prevent a more serious accident occurring down the line.
Safety and health at work should never be an afterthought, as it should be considered as critical to a successful business as customer service standards and financial planning.
By committing to good health and safety you are making a sound business decision and protecting probably your greatest asset, your workers.
Barbara Wells has worked as a nurse in various elderly care homes and hospitals. Her articles mainly focus on mesothelioma and asbestos exposure awareness.
Image of asbestos roof from Shutterstock