HR Management: Health & Safety

This chapter is all about health and safety
in the work environment. In this segment we will discuss the basic facts about the Occupation
Safety and Health Act and Administration, discuss how to minimize unsafe acts by employees,
talk about how to deal with important occupational health problems, and look at the supervisor’s
role in safety. The Occupational Safety and Health Act was
passed in 1970 to preserve the nation’s human resources by assuring as much as possible
that every worker has a safe and healthy working condition. The Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (or OSHA) held within the Department of Labor administers the act, sets and enforces
the safety and health standards, and has inspectors working out of branch offices throughout the
country to ensure compliance. One of the main things OSHA does is to create
general industry, maritime, and construction standards, and well as other regulations and
procedures that different industries must follow to ensure the safety of their employees
and customers. Here is an example of a general construction standard for guardrails. As you
can see the standard notes a minimum height as well as other installation requirements. OSHA also requires most employers to maintain
records of any workplace injuries. Under OSHA, employers with 11 or more employees must maintain
records of and report occupational injuries and illnesses. An occupational illness is
any abnormal condition or disorder caused by exposure to environmental factors associated
with employment. This flow chart helps organizations decide when an accident must be reported to
OSHA. For example, if an accident results in a death, an illness, or a restriction of
work motion, it must be reported to OSHA; but if the accident only involves minor first
aid, then it does not need to be reported. Not only does OSHA require reporting and record
keeping but they also do onsite inspections. Inspections are decided based on a priority
list. First on this list are situations of imminent danger and OSHA conducts an inspection
within 24 hours for these situations. Second, are catastrophes, fatalities, and accidents
that have already occurred and OSHA responds within 3 working days. Third, are valid employee
complaints of an alleged violation of standards and for situations that are non-serious, OSHA
responds within 20 working days. Complaints such as these are filed in writing by a worker
or union. Next, are periodic special-emphasis inspections aimed at high-hazard industries,
occupations, or substances; and last are random inspections and re-inspections. Penalties
on average can range from $5,000 up to $70,000 for willful or repeated serious violations,
although in practice the penalties can be far higher based on the violation. There are 3 main causes of workplace accidents:
chance occurrences, unsafe conditions and unsafe acts. The first, chance occurrences,
are just that; they are random events that have no rhyme or reason to them. For example,
a baseball from a local little league game comes flying through your window at work,
breaks the glass and you receive some cuts from the flying glass. This is a chance occurrence.
The second cause, unsafe conditions can involve any of the things you see listed here. For
instance things like improperly guarded or defective equipment can lead to serious workplace
accidents. Unsafe acts by employees are the last major cause of workplace accidents. Unfortunately,
there are no easy answers to the question of what causes them, but examples include
things like forgetting to wear a hard hat or other safety equipment. There are a number of hazardous substances
or chemicals you may come into contact with at work. Asbestos is one such example and
organizations must take every precaution to protect employees from this and other sources
of respiratory illness such as silica or lead poisoning. There is also the threat of infectious
diseases. Since the SARS scare people have become more concerned about this issue especially
with many employees traveling to and from international destinations. Obviously, employers
must make provisions for ensuring that a returning employee does not inadvertently infect colleagues. There are also a number of other issues employers
need to be aware of in relation to health and safety, ranging from job stress to violence
at work. Job stress can cause a number of problems at work such as poor work performance
and lower job satisfaction. Reducing job stress can range from getting more sleep and eating
better to negotiating with your boss for realistic deadlines on important projects. When severe job stress is not dealt with,
it can lead to burnout. Burnout is the total depletion of physical and mental resources
caused by excessive striving to reach an unrealistic work-related goal. Some suggestions for alleviating
burnout include: getting away from it all periodically and reassessing your goals. A third issue concerns computer-related health
problems such as eyestrain, neck and back pain or carpal tunnel syndrome. The National
Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (or NIOSH) has several recommendations that
organizations can implement to reduce computer-related health problems and minimize employee concerns. AIDS is another issue we have discussed previously.
While AIDS is definitely a workplace hazard employers need to be aware of, under ADA,
they cannot subject an employee with AIDS to discriminatory treatment. Workplace smoking is becoming an area of serious
concern for employees and employers. Smokers have significantly greater risk of occupational
accidents and higher absenteeism rates than nonsmokers. They also increase the cost of
health and fire insurance. In response to this, many organizations are starting smoking
cessation programs or even going so far as refusing to hire smokers. Violence at work is the last issue we will
discuss here. In the last few decades organizations have seen a dramatic increase in the number
of violent incidents occurring on the job. From the highly publicized office shootings
to the lesser discussed issue of workplace robbery, organizations need to do their best
to reduce violence at work. There are a number of steps companies can
take to better prepare or protect their employees such as: improving their employee screening
process to make sure they are not hiring anyone with a past history of aggressive behavior
and providing employees with conflict resolution training. In the end there is no better deterrent to
employee violence than having a basic security plan. Basic prerequisites for a Security Plan
include several things: one, a company philosophy and policy on crime, in particular, making
sure employees understand that no crime is acceptable and that the employer has a zero
tolerance policy. Two, making sure to conduct a full background check as part of your selection
process for every position. Three, creating a security awareness training to inform employees
on the policies and procedures. Four, the organization should establish and communicate
the procedures employees should follow in the event of a terrorist threat, bomb threat,
fire, or other emergency. When setting up the actual security plan organizations
should follow these four steps: analyze the current level of risk, and then install mechanical,
natural, and organizational security systems. Natural security is taking advantage of the
facility’s natural or architectural features in order to minimize security problems. Mechanical
security is the utilization of security systems such as locks, intrusion alarms, access control
systems, and surveillance systems. Lastly, organizational security is using good
management to improve safety. In other words, if you have good managers that treat employees
with respect and dignity then many health and safety issues can be avoided completely. In today’s lesson we have discussed the basics
of workplace health and safety and how organizations can help to create a safe environment for
their employees. Now it is time to apply what you have learned.


  1. This is a pile of Shit costing the US Economy a fortune. It came out in 1970 to make the Health and Safety Executive rich at the expense of every business in the USA just in case they get sued by compensation ambulance chasing lawyers everytime there is an accident. Both industries extort money out of local business. The two work hand in hand. The people in the USA are fools for not recognising that this is a drain on their economy. In 1974 it came to the UK and we are now in debt thanks to USA

  2. That's why Lord Young was mandated by the UK Prime minister to report on the operation of health and safety law. On the other hand you do know that an employer has a duty of care to employees under common law. I hope you don't get fined by OSHA or the HSE AND get sued by your employees.

  3. If they got rid of this Legal Circus costing the nation a fortune and everyone took responsibilities for their own actions then there would be no need for the Health and Safety and the Ambulance chasing lawyers like Underdog broadcasting how they got Millions in Compensation. The UK NHS paid out EIGHT BILLION POUNDS 2004 to 2009 and almost half of this went into the pockets of lawyers whilst the NHS cuts corners to save money elsewhere. This can mean children dying in Hospital

  4. See my Comments above on Health and Safety

  5. See my Comments above on Health and Safety

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