Work has been a tradition long practised by every living organism, and it is arguably the barebone of the existence of every known living species. The importance of work cannot be overemphasized. Why? Because the survival of any plant or animal is dependent on the work they perform. Even to the tiniest of insects (ants), they have to work to be able to survive every season of the year.
The same thing goes for humans. We have to work in order to be able to provide food, clothing, and shelter. Which are the most basic and primary need we have as humans! But over the years the way we work has changed a lot, owing to numerous inventions and policies that have influenced our work environment in order to curb perilous circumstances and accidents that can lead to loss of life or property. And one of such policies is “work, health and safety” (WHS).
If you are still one of the very few (whether you are a business owner or an employee) still in doubt as to the relevance of WHS or why you at least need to have a person with a diploma in work, health, and safety within your organization, then read on, because contrary to the popular misconception; “that anyone with common sense can handle the job description of a safety officer.”—-that is a recipe for disaster
Identifying potential risk
Risks of different types and magnitude exist in every work environment on a daily basis. However, some risks are much greater and can be very devastating if not identified and properly checkmated by decreasing the probability of the risk where feasible, protecting assets via shifting all or an amount of the risk and minimizing the potential harm of the risk in the event of an accident.
All these listed above and many more are the basic jobs of safety personnel. Because the first step towards any disaster preparedness pursuit is to recognize the potential risk, assess their credibility, evaluate the probability of risk occurrence, and appraise the potential damage. It is very important that when you as a manager or business owner is soliciting for a safety person, to get someone with training that is attuned to your exact work environment, because potential risk varies from facility to facility, operation to operation and lastly location to location.
In as much as it is very crucial to asses risk and try to reduce or completely avoid any potential risk, it is needless to say that some accidents can still occur because it is not humanly possible to completely eliminate risk within a workplace. That is where a safety professional comes into play. A WHS personnel by virtue of their training and experience are able to anticipate potential health hazards and put in place countermeasures that can help cushion the effects of the said crisis and reduce the magnitude of casualties to the barest minimum.
Knowledge of labour laws
In several companies and institutions, the safety and health functions report or liaise directly with the human resource department, while in some other organizations the safety and health department reports to chains of command while working directly with the human resource department.
Owing to the fact that both departments work closely with the issues and people within the labour force, it is not uncommon for the WHS professional to work closely with the human resource unit. Moreso, given the various federal, state, and local laws that are intertwined with the human resource unit and the safety & health group, it is important to have a WHS person—or persons that have a minimum awareness of the laws in order to be able to identify potential breach or conflicts when tackling employee situations within the safety and health function.
Enforcement of Internal Company Policy
Disciplinary policy: safety and health professionals are usually very versed in the internal company policy regarding negative reinforcement, especially disciplinary action for the violation of safety and health requirements. Some of which include but are not limited to, verbal warnings, written or formal warnings, suspension from work without pay, and involuntary termination.
Antidiscrimination policies: Imputations of discrimination in the workplace can spell doom to a company or organization, not only in financial terms but also in terms of brand, reputation, and other damages.
Safety professionals are usually the “eyes and ears” within the operations and are able to identify and report actions, language, publications, and other issues that may place the company or organization at risk.
Disability-related policies: Part of the responsibilities of the safety and health professional is to be abreast of all the companies requirements regarding disability, accommodation, short-term disability, and long-term disability policies.
Collective bargaining Agreement: The WHS personal always has the working knowledge of unionized operations alongside the provisions and demands applicable to the safety and health function within the collective bargaining agreement.
In conclusion, there is one variable that cannot be discounted within a work environment, and that is the fact that employees encounter or faces stressors from outside of their workplaces which they bring along with them into the workspace. These stressors can include issues like divorce, sick relative, medical problems, and other non-related work issues.
Safety officials are aware of these issues that often plague employees—namely, lack of perceived fair compensation levels, very few or too many work hours, unsafe working environment, rigid management, and little or no say as regards their job functions or activities. They are also aware that outside influences such as labour disputes, worker’s compensation claim disputes, disciplinary actions, and other related vices can also affect the employee’s job satisfaction.
Now you might be wondering, what has a safety officer got to do with how their employers feel? To answer that—-let’s borrow data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Which indicates that the number one way in which an employer is identified for a compliance inspection is through employee COMPLAINT.
So ask yourself this as a business owner, if your employee is satisfied with the safety and health programs, activities, and performance, will there be a need to complain to OSHA?—food for thought.