Managing H&S in the Workplace

Employers have a duty to ensure the workplace is safe and is not a danger to the health of workers or others

Optimal workplace safety should be a standard for any company, large or small. Whether or not a company has a designated Health and Safety manager, the responsibility of health and safety should be assigned to a person or committee inside the company. This person/s should play an essential, vigilant role in dealing with new concepts and new circumstances regarding employee and workplace safety. Companies should consider the following points in relation to health and safety in the workplace.

Policy
It is vital that a company has a health and safety policy in place. This should set out the programme for safeguarding employees and the company’s commitment to comply with the terms of the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and relevant and associated legislation. The policy should cover three key areas:

  • Commitment to managing health and safety
  • Responsibilities of management
  • Practical arrangements (e.g., safety procedures and staff training)

Employers should ensure that employees fully understand the policy and procedures.

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Risk Assessment
Risk cannot be fully eliminated, but it can be managed by identifying hazards and taking steps towards harm reduction. Risk assessments (RA) allows one to pinpoint the hazards that have potential to cause harm and to put control measures in place to reduce the likelihood of anyone being harmed.

Training
Adequate training is essential to avoid or mitigate risk to accidents and injury. Safety training, including manual handling, first aid, fire drills and ergonomic assessments will reduce risk of causing injury or illness to an employee/s.
To maintain the safest environment for everyone, ensure all workers are trained on new procedures, new equipment and other potential dangers. In addition, post signs and safety procedures throughout the office (e.g., lift techniques posted in a warehouse). This will act as a reminder to workers and give access to safety information when and where they need it.

Management Commitment
While a risk assessment can identify risk of injury and illness, the controls implemented must be fully supported by everyone in the company, particularly management. If there is poor commitment and prioritisation towards safety health and welfare in the workplace, the workers are less likely to adhere to the health and safety controls (eg If management do not wear safety goggles and hard hat, workers are less likely to wear the correct protective gear). A company is more likely going to benefit from an enhanced buy-in by management and by all staff in this area.
It is important to ensure that appropriate channels of communication are in place to facilitate effective and regular consultation and communication with staff and those who are affected by the activities of business. This will promote a positive safety culture through enabling staff to contribute to the decision-making process. It will also empower staff to promote and act as leaders in relation to the management of safety, health and welfare in the workplace.

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