NEBOSH International General Certificate in Occupational Safety and Health
Health and Safety Solutions
RRC BUSINESS TRAINING 27-37 St George’s Road, London SW19 4DS Tel +44 (0)20 8944 3100 • Fax +44 (0)20 8944 7099 email@example.com • www.rrc.co.uk
THE COURSE WRITER who initially trained as a research chemist and spent 7 years with Courtaulds, first as an R&D scientist and then as a Safety Manager. During this time, he gained his NEBOSH Diploma, studying through RRC and later joined the EHS department of an electronic chemicals manufacturer as product regulatory officer. He has been a regular NEBOSH Diploma examiner.
RRC Module No. 915.1.3
NEBOSH | International General Certificate
C O N T E N T S Element Title 1
Health and Safety Foundations
Setting Policy for Health and Safety
Organising for Health and Safety
Promoting a Positive Health and Safety Culture
Health and Safety Risk Assessment
Principles of Control in Health and Safety
Movement of People and Vehicles – Hazards and Control
Manual and Mechanical Handling Hazards and Control
Work Equipment Hazards and Control
Electrical Hazards and Control
Fire Hazards and Control
Chemical and Biological Health Hazards and Control
Physical and Psychological Health Hazards and Control
Construction Activities - Hazards and Control
Investigation, Recording and Reporting of Health and Safety Incidents
Monitoring, Review and Audit of Health and Safety Performance
Examination and Assessment Preparation
Element 1 | Health and Safety Foundations
NEBOSH International General Certificate Element 1 | Health and Safety Foundations Contents
THE MULTI-DISCIPLINARY NATURE OF HEALTH AND SAFETY __________________________________________________ 1–3 OBSTACLES TO GOOD STANDARDS OF HEALTH AND SAFETY _________________________________________________ 1–4
HEALTH, SAFETY, WELFARE AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION ______________________________________________ 1–7 ACCIDENTS AND OTHER EVENTS ___________________________________________________________________ 1–7 HAZARDS AND RISKS __________________________________________________________________________ 1–9
SIZE OF THE PROBLEM ________________________________________________________________________ 1–11 DIRECT AND INDIRECT COSTS OF ACCIDENTS AND ILL-HEALTH _______________________________________________ 1–12 THE NEED TO PROVIDE A SAFE PLACE OF WORK, SAFE PLANT AND EQUIPMENT, SAFE SYSTEMS OF WORK, TRAINING AND SUPERVISION, AND COMPETENT WORKERS ____________________________________________________________________ 1–14
THE EMPLOYER’S BASIC RESPONSIBILITIES __________________________________________________________ 1–16 WORKER’S RESPONSIBILITIES AND RIGHTS___________________________________________________________ 1–17 THE CONSEQUENCES OF NON-COMPLIANCE __________________________________________________________ 1–18 ROLE OF ENFORCING AUTHORITIES AND OTHER EXTERNAL AGENCIES __________________________________________ 1–18 THE ROLE OF INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS AND CONVENTIONS ______________________________________________ 1–19
INTRODUCTION Most people would agree that poor working conditions of any type have the potential to affect a worker’s health and safety. It would also be agreed that our aim should be to eliminate or at least minimise the risk of accident or injury; and to protect workers from the effects of ill-health caused by their working conditions. However, those aims are not that simple to achieve in practice. Take almost any country in the world and people are still killed either at work or as a result of work activities; many more have non-fatal injuries at work or suffer from work-related ill-health. The cost of workplace accidents or diseases is very high. There is both a direct cost to the employer in lost working time, medical costs, repair or replacement of equipment, etc., and also a much higher indirect cost which affects the injured or sick workers and their families. This element sets out a framework of health and safety by looking at the practical, moral and financial issues surrounding the goal of a safe workplace environment, and the legal and organisational framework which seeks to ensure that goal. In doing so, the element is designed to meet the following aims and learning outcomes as specified by NEBOSH for this part of the syllabus for the International Certificate.
Overall Aims On completion of this element, you should understand: •
The scope and nature of occupational health and safety.
The moral, legal and economic reasons for promoting good standards of health and safety within an organisation.
The role of national governments and international bodies in formulating a framework for the regulation of health and safety.
The basis of a system for managing health and safety.
The costs of failing to manage health and safety.
Specific Intended Learning Outcomes When you have worked through this element, you will be able to: •
Explain briefly the moral/social, legal and economic bases for maintaining good standards of health and safety.
Outline the roles and responsibilities of employers and workers.
Identify sources of information on health and safety.
Outline the key elements of a health and safety management system.
THE NATURE AND SCOPE OF HEALTH AND SAFETY Health and safety at work is based on an understanding of the causes of accidents and other events at the workplace which lead to harm to workers and others who may be close by. In general terms, though, this is perhaps not as easy as may at first be thought.
The Multi-Disciplinary Nature of Health and Safety The roots of a systematic approach to health and safety lie in the development of large-scale manufacturing operations. In the past, factory machinery was operated with little or no regard to the safety of workers and it was far from uncommon for factory staff (including young children) to suffer bodily injury from unguarded machines. Reacting to these effects, the causes were addressed by concerned factory owners and politicians, allied to increasing pressure from workers themselves, by putting in protective measures (such as machine guards) and developing safer working practices. As scientific knowledge has grown and political and social concern over workplace health and safety has broadened, the effects of work have been studied extensively. The range of issues identified, which started with those clearly identifiable physical injuries such as losing fingers or arms, has widened to include less apparent injuries (such as deteriorating eyesight and bad backs) and illnesses (both physical and psychological), which very often build up over time, rather than being caused by a single incident. The causes of these problems themselves are often not easily identifiable. Occupational health and safety today, then, has moved a long way from its engineering roots and brings together a wide range of subject specialities to investigate what the ill-effects of work are and what causes them. It draws on the study of both the physical world – chemistry, physics, biology, etc. – and the social world, of how and why people behave as they do. As a health and safety practitioner, you would not expect to be familiar with the detail of all these subjects, but should be aware of the range of different disciplines which contribute to knowledge and understanding of health and safety issues. These include: •
Chemistry and physics, which explain the properties of different substances and the ways in which they behave in different circumstances – for example, electricity, explosive or flammable materials, acid, etc.
Biological sciences (including toxicology, hygiene and medicine), which explain the composition and processes of living organisms – for example, the effects of harmful organisms on people, the responses and reactions of the human body when under physical stress, etc.
Engineering, which is responsible for the construction of buildings and mechanical processes – for example, the safe design of machinery and vehicles, fireproofing buildings, etc.
Psychology, which attempts to explain the behaviour of the individual – for example, the effects of stress on the mind, the motivation behind the behaviour of individuals and groups at the workplace, etc.
Sociology, which attempts to explain the behaviour of people in groups – for example, management processes, patterns of work, communication in organisations, etc.
The law, which contains the rules and regulations of society – for example, the mass of law which deals with workplace activities.
Obstacles to Good Standards of Health and Safety As we have noted, health and safety is based on removing, or minimising, the causes of accidents and other events in the workplace which may have adverse effects on workers. It should be clear now that this cause-and-effect relationship is not always easily identifiable and, as the processes and activities in the workplace continue to develop, that the complexity of the problem is a continuing obstacle to good standards of health and safety. However, other obstacles arise from the nature of the workplace itself – the characteristics both of the organisation within which work is carried out (including private commercial businesses and public sector bodies) and of the people who carry out the work.
Complexity of the Problem We can see three ways in which the issue of health and safety in the workplace is far from simple. • Whilst this is self-evident in respect of certain events – for example, dropping a stillburning cigarette into a wastepaper basket can cause a fire – there are many ill-effects suffered by people at work for which there is no readily identifiable cause or, where there is an identifiable cause, its relationship with the effect does not seem to be straightforward. For example, in some offices, workers have suffered from a variety of symptoms such as headaches, or eye, skin, nose and throat irritations, etc. where there is no one apparent cause. Rather the problem is attributed to “sick building syndrome” – a general term which may cover a whole variety of causes, including the lighting, air-conditioning, presence of static electricity, etc. Another example is that of work-related upper limb disorders (WRULD for short, or, as it was often known in the past, repetitive strain injury or RSI), which affect some workers using computer keyboards but not others. In general, these issues may be resolved by increasing our scientific understanding of the nature of the injury or harm, and the ways in which the working environment acts to cause them. Thus, the incidence of lung disorders among certain workers was only attributed to the workplace when the link between asbestos exposure and such health problems was established, and since then there have been ever stricter controls over the use of the substance. • In many western countries, the last 30 years has seen a revolution in the way in which work is carried out and the type of work which is undertaken. In the main, this has been fuelled by technological change – primarily, the computerisation of manufacturing and information processing – and the drive for increased efficiency and productivity to keep costs down in the face of increasing competition. The effects include an increase in the range and complexity of activities, the speeding up of operations and changes to the traditional patterns of organisation and management. Thus, the increasing complexity of the modern workplace has perhaps increased the range of hazards and risks.
• It may be argued that as the hazards and risks to health have become better understood, the range of issues which have to be addressed have themselves made health and safety more complex. Reflecting this, the legislation and official guidance covering workplaces have steadily increased in both number and complexity over the years. Those responsible for health and safety have an ever increasing task of keeping abreast of new developments and requirements, and of implementing appropriate responses to them through policies and practices, in an already complex working environment.
Competing and Conflicting Demands Organisations exist to produce the goods and services demanded of them by their customers and clients. If they do not do this and do it profitably, they will go out of business or, in the case of public sector organisations, there will be political and/or management changes to ensure that they do. Therefore, the primary objective of management in a competitive and cost-conscious environment will be to achieve those goals. Under this way of looking at organisations, health and safety represents a cost, which might be regarded as a non-productive cost in that it does not directly contribute to the efficient provision of goods and services. As a result, in many organisations, health and safety is not a priority of management. Instead, it may be seen as conflicting with the need to increase production, to pursue higher sales figures or to cut costs. In the situation where an employer takes little responsibility for the protection of his workers’ health and safety, the result will be that serious workplace accidents, injuries or diseases are commonplace.
Behavioural Issues The first thing we should note is that for occupational health and safety practice to work successfully, there has to be the collaboration and participation of both the employers and the workers in health and safety matters. To some extent, the management measures taken to implement good health and safety standards at work can be integrated into the working processes themselves. Thus, guards may be placed on machines, circuit breakers incorporated into electrical appliances, or automatic fire detection devices fitted which immediately set off alarms when they sense the presence of smoke. However, most measures rely, to a greater or lesser degree, on the actions of workers to make them effective. Unfortunately, this is a major source of weakness. It has been estimated that 60% of workplace accidents are caused by human action (or lack of action), with the main reasons for this being ignorance, carelessness or incompetence. The extent to which workers, individually or collectively, are conscious of the hazards and risks at the workplace and are motivated to maintain the necessary standards to ensure safe working practices can vary enormously. There are a number of factors which can influence this: •
Conflicts between individual or group goals and the requirements of health and safety – for example, the pursuit of higher levels of output to attract bonus payments, working excessive numbers of hours, or simply patterns of social interaction which may cause distraction or loss of attention.
Individual characteristics and suitability for the job – including physical or mental characteristics, knowledge and skills, temperament, personality, etc.
The satisfaction of needs through achievements at work – the extent to which the characteristics of the job and the workplace meet the needs of individuals and provide a motivation to perform effectively.
All of these factors can – and should – be addressed directly by management in the interests of developing and maintaining a safe working environment.
MEANINGS AND DISTINCTIONS The subject of health and safety is, like all subjects, full of its own language and terminology – we have already started to use some, such as hazards and risks. It is important to be clear about a number of the basic concepts of the subject and here we shall define and explain certain underlying principles.
Health, Safety, Welfare and Environmental Protection Health and safety at work is a general term to cover a wide range of effects which may be created by activities and events which occur at the workplace. Exactly what is covered? •
Health relates to the physical condition of both body and mind, of all people at the workplace (workers, contractors and visitors) and their protection from harm in the form of injury or disease.
Safety relates to the conditions at the workplace and applies to the pursuit of a state where the risk of harm has been eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level.
Welfare relates to the general well-being of workers at the workplace and the promotion of conditions which help to provide for their needs in respect of health, comfort, social and personal well-being. This broader concept of welfare is not a specific concern of health and safety at work, but effective health and safety measures may contribute to the conditions which promote it.
Environmental protection can be seen as comprising two types: −
The workplace environment, which relates to the general conditions in the immediate area of the workplace itself – for example, levels of lighting, noise, heat, etc.
The external environment, which relates to pollution of, or damage to, the air, land, water and living creatures outside of the workplace, insofar as they may be affected by workplace activities.
The second type is not generally considered to be part of health and safety at work, since its focus is not on the protection of people at the workplace. However, some of the issues with which it is concerned are shared with those of health and safety and there is a degree of common practice and methods between them.
Accidents and Other Events It is useful to define several types of event commonly considered in relation to health and safety. An event that gave rise to an accident or had the potential to lead to an accident (the term incident includes accidents and near misses (see below)). This is widely agreed to mean an undesired event, giving rise to death, ill-health, injury, damage or other loss e.g. a worker is injured when he puts his hand into a machine from which a guard has been removed. – These are any form of event which could have resulted in injury or loss but did not in fact do so. Consider the following example: The worker realises that a machine guard is missing and pulls out his hand, just getting a smear of oil on his fingers.
These may be the same events with the same causes as the accidents illustrated before, but with a different outcome. They are significant in that lessons should be learned from them in order to prevent them re-occurring and, perhaps, causing harm the next time. In many regions throughout the world, certain types of events are reportable to the enforcing authority. By enforcing authority we mean the executive branch of the government charged with enforcing health and safety legislation and standards. These organisations are also commonly referred to as competent authorities. In terms of reporting, the following four definitions are noteworthy. : an occurrence arising out of, or in the course of, work, which results in fatal or non-fatal injury. : an accident resulting in death or personal injury occurring on the direct way between the place of work and: (i) the worker's principal or secondary residence; or (ii) the place where the worker usually takes a meal; or (iii) the place where the worker usually receives his or her remuneration. : a readily identifiable event as defined under national laws and regulations, with potential to cause an injury or disease to persons at work or to the public. These events typically involve serious potential for injury, even though no injury in fact resulted – though they usually involve some form of loss or damage to equipment. Examples of this type might include explosions when a factory is empty of workers or collapse of scaffolding during a night time gale. : any disease contracted as a result of an exposure to risk factors arising from work activity e.g. occupational cancer arising from exposure to asbestos in the workplace.
Work-Related Ill-Health It is easy to equate personal injury with accidents, but work-related ill-health may also be the outcome of a type of accident. Nobody sets out deliberately to create the conditions which cause asbestosis, dermatitis or work-related upper limb disorder. The main differences between health issues and safety issues are timescale and the nature of the harm. Physical accidents happen very quickly, whereas health accidents tend to occur slowly, often over a long period of time, and equally health issues relate to illness whilst safety issues relate to injuries. Work-related ill-health may be either physiological or psychological: •
Physiological problems are those diseases or injuries suffered as a result of long-term exposure to dangerous substances in the workplace (such as various types of dust or fumes) or to damaging working practices (such as repetitive movements or excessive noise).
Psychological problems are usually related to stress and include such illnesses as depression. Stress may be created by short-term, or even instant, events, where the emotional shock of a particular incident or series of incidents (such as being involved in or witnessing violence) may cause problems for workers. It may also be the result of longerterm exposure to particular pressures at the workplace, including excessive demands on performance or bullying.
is an article, substance or situation that has the
. Not all hazards will cause harm all of the time. It depends upon The key word is circumstances. Typical workplace hazards include: •
Working at heights.
These are just a few examples. In a normal workplace there may be many more hazards. is the . The degree of risk depends upon the likelihood of A harm happening and the severity of the outcome i.e. type of injury, numbers involved, etc. Unfortunately, it is very often impossible to eliminate all hazards to avoid accidents. The next best thing, then, is to reduce to an acceptable level the risk of any hazard turning into an accident. For example, a trailing cable in the workplace constitutes a hazard and the associated risk is the chance of a trip or a fall over the cable, accompanied by a particular degree of injury. (Electricity is another hazard present in this situation, but for simplicity we will ignore this.) Ideally, the hazard should be eliminated by having the appliance close to the electrical socket, or the cable permanently fastened to the wall. However, with some types of equipment, say a vacuum cleaner, this is not possible. A solution, therefore, would be to reduce the risk by considering the positioning of the cable and perhaps providing warning signs. The magnitude of the risk is an estimate of how likely it is that someone will trip over the cable, with an assessment of the likely severity of injury caused. The same hazard may therefore present different magnitudes of risk, depending on the arrangements: Hazard
Tripping over cable and falling
Position of Cable
Magnitude of Risk (likelihood x severity)
Fastened to wall
Trailing around edge of room
Trailing across the floor
Trailing across head of stairway
The identification of hazards and the assessment of associated risks has become the cornerstone of modern health and safety law.
THE MORAL, LEGAL AND ECONOMIC REASONS FOR HEALTH AND SAFETY The responsibility for health and safety at work rests primarily on the shoulders of the employer. It must therefore be a prime concern of management to ensure that appropriate measures and practices are in place to create safe working conditions. This placing of responsibility on employers comes essentially from the focus given by most health and safety legislation. However, there are also compelling moral and economic reasons for employers to be concerned with health and safety: •
Employers (through management) provide the premises and equipment and put in place the working practices which workers use to produce the goods and services with which employers earn profits (or, in the case of government agency employers, remain in power). To that extent they can be said to gain from the conditions at the workplace. In return, they provide an income for workers, but also have a moral responsibility to provide appropriate working conditions. This forms the basis of the employer’s responsibilities which we discuss below.
Unsafe working conditions are likely to have an impact on production – through both loss of output and a lowering of worker morale and motivation – and on sales. Increasingly, society has expectations of a socially-concerned approach to management and the conduct of business, and the customer/client base of organisations may be adversely affected by the negative image surrounding a poor health and safety record.
Apart from the financial cost of loss of output, employers may be liable for fines and/or payment of damages in respect of accidents at work.
Size of the Problem The introduction of legislation, together with an extensive programme of publicity and advice on accident prevention, has brought about a consistent reduction in the number of both fatal and non-fatal accidents at work. However there continues to be an unacceptably high toll in terms of death, injury and financial loss associated with incidents at the workplace. The following global statistics have been published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as part of their SafeWork programme (the actual figures are unimportant – it is simply to show the scale of the problem): •
There are 270 million occupational accidents and 160 million occupational diseases each year.
Around 2 million people die every year from occupational accidents and occupational diseases.
4% of the world’s gross domestic product is lost each year through the cost of injury, death, absence, etc.
There are around 355,000 on-the-job fatalities each year – half of these occur in agriculture. Other high-risk sectors are construction and fishing industries.
Direct and Indirect Costs of Accidents and Ill-Health We have seen that the costs of failures in health and safety at work across the economy as a whole are enormous. For the individual employer, they can also be very significant. The costs may be divided into two parts: •
– These are the measurable costs arising from an accident and/or any claim for liability under the civil or criminal courts. They include sick pay, repairs or replacement of damaged equipment and buildings, etc., product loss or damage, loss of production, public and/or product liability, fines, legal fees, increases in insurance premiums, etc.
– These are costs which may arise as a consequence of the event, but do not generally involve the payment of money. They are often largely unknown, but it is estimated that in certain circumstances they may be extremely high. They include business interruption, loss of orders, cost of time spent on investigations, loss of corporate image.
We can examine these costs by reference to different classes of accident or other health and safety events.
There are no direct costs associated with this type of event. However, near misses may incur minor indirect costs in relation to a temporary stoppage of work, with the extent of the losses depending upon the duration of the stoppage and that in itself depends upon the nature and severity of the event.
The direct costs of this type of event include: •
Value of the materials wasted.
Value of any finished products or work-in-progress lost as a result.
Cost of replacement or repair of plant and equipment.
Loss of production whilst repairs are made or replacements obtained.
Increased overtime costs incurred to make up for loss of production.
In addition, the following indirect costs may be incurred: •
Loss of time already spent on the job.
Loss of goodwill from customers following from delays in production and fulfilling orders – resulting in cancellations and further loss of orders.
Penalty clauses activated for failing to meet delivery dates, resulting in lower profits from sales.
The direct costs of this type of event include: •
Costs of medical treatment – first aid, ambulance, out-patient treatment, in-patient treatment (bed, nursing, doctors, specialists, consultants, medication, etc.).
Compensation payable to victim.
Fines imposed on conviction for breach of criminal law.
Loss of victims’ own productive capacity and possible knock-on effects to others, causing overall loss of production before production schedules and work allocations are rearranged.
Increased overtime costs incurred to make up for loss of production.
In addition, the following indirect costs may be incurred: •
Loss of production time due to workers stopping to assist the victim(s) and discussing the incident.
Downtime on machinery due to switching off in order to provide assistance to the victim(s).
Loss of staff from productive duties in order to investigate the incident, prepare reports, undertake hospital visits, deal with relatives, attend court proceedings.
Cost of training replacement(s).
Difficulties in recruiting suitable replacements, and possible loss of existing staff, if health and safety record is poor.
Increased overheads if plant and men are idle.
Loss of goodwill from customers following delays in production and fulfilling orders – resulting in cancellations and further loss of orders.
Activation of penalty clauses for failing to meet delivery dates, resulting in lower profits from sales.
The costs here are likely to be a combination of those liabilities arising separately for events involving only damage to plant and equipment and those involving only personal injury.
Insurance, Costs and Liabilities Employers usually take out insurance to cover themselves against potential losses caused by such events as fire and theft. In many countries, employers are also required by law to have insurance against certain types of liability. However, many of the costs involved in respect of accidents at work are not covered by insurance. Uninsured costs include all indirect costs as well as those relating to loss of production as a result of many types of incident. In addition, the insurance to cover loss in respect of certain events may be void where it may be shown that the employer has not taken adequate precautions to prevent the incident. It has been estimated that uninsured losses were between 8 and 36 times greater than insured losses.
Fault and No-Fault Compensation Systems In many countries around the world the principle way that a worker has to claim compensation in the case of a workplace inquiry is to use the Courts. This “tort” based system is essentially adversarial and requires that someone else is blamed for causing the inquiry. In most instances it is the employer who is blamed and therefore found to be at fault. This is the principal compensation mechanism used in the UK and the USA. In other countries a no-fault compensation system is in operation. In these countries there is no requirement to blame employers or employees in order for compensation to be awarded. Instead a panel of experts make a decision on whether compensation should be awarded. The
system is non-adversarial and does not involve lawyers or the courts in most instances. These no-fault compensation systems are operated in, for example, New Zealand and Sweden.
The Need to Provide a Safe Place of Work, Safe Plant and Equipment, Safe Systems of Work, Training and Supervision, and Competent Workers Safe Place of Work You will appreciate that should an employer create a place of work, it follows that there should be some legal requirement on him to ensure that such a place of work is reasonably safe. What is considered “reasonable” may vary with the type of work. It follows that the employer should provide safe access to and from the workplace; it is no good the workplace itself being safe and yet having to climb a high ladder just to get to it!
Safe Plant and Equipment Not only should an employer provide a safe place of work, but all the machinery, tools, plant, equipment and appliances which will be used by workers must at all times be kept in a wellmaintained and safe condition. Exactly what this means will depend on the type of work being carried out. It is safe to assume that the greater the risk involved in the operation of particular types of plant and equipment, the greater the care that must be taken. Thus, the need to inspect, service and repair, and replace machinery in a steel-making factory would be far greater than that which would apply in an office. However, the same duty to maintain the plant and equipment used in proper condition applies to both and employers must be able to demonstrate that they have given reasonable thought to the health and safety implications of the machinery, etc., and taken reasonable steps to ensure its continuing safety, if they wish to escape liability in the event of an accident.
Safe System of Work It is not sufficient to stop at the provision of safe premises and plant and equipment. There must be recognised safe procedures for the use of equipment and these should be rigorously maintained. There are a number of aspects to this which must be considered: •
The system of work should be reasonably safe in all circumstances, so the procedures must cover all foreseeable possibilities – for example, the operation of drilling equipment in different types of weather, rather than just a set of rules which ensure safety when the weather is good.
Workers must be fully aware of and competent in carrying out the safe system of work. Thus, there is an implied requirement that staff are properly trained and instructed in the procedures, and that all information necessary to ensure that the system is followed is made available. This may include the display of warning notices, and it may be necessary for them to be printed in a number of different languages to ensure that all staff and visitors are aware of what is necessary.
The fact that a system of work has been in operation without incident for a period of time is not evidence of it being a safe system of work. In recent years, emphasis has been placed on the need for appropriate review, planning and control in ensuring that working methods are safe.
Training and Supervision and Competency of Staff It is essential to ensure that staff are equipped with the knowledge, experience, skills and training necessary to carry out their work in a safe manner, without causing harm to themselves or others, and that they do indeed carry out the work in a safe manner. This starts with the appointment of workers, where the employer must ensure that the person has all the necessary abilities to do the job safely i.e. he is competent. It would be courting disaster, for example, to engage a person who was unable to read and then put him to work on complicated machinery where there was a requirement to read and understand important operating instructions. All staff need also to be provided with the specific knowledge required to operate safely in the particular workplace, using the particular plant and machinery according to the recognised safe systems of work. The provision of that knowledge through training, instruction and other forms of information is a major responsibility of the employer. Training and instruction must be suitable for the individual worker. Finally, employers should take reasonable practical steps to ensure that staff are following all the correct procedures and are actually operating safely. This does not mean that an employer stands and looks over the shoulder of each individual worker – this would clearly be unreasonable. However, it does imply that management must take active steps to check the situation. We have noted that around 60% of workplace accidents are the result of human actions and are preventable. Clearly there are many instances of workers not following the agreed procedures and practices. In such situations, who is to blame – the employer, the worker or both? With judicious use of supervision, an employer can reinforce adherence to procedures. If supervision is not used at all, it may create a culture in which safe working procedures are ignored.
TYPICAL FRAMEWORKS FOR REGULATING HEALTH AND SAFETY As you would expect, the actual detailed legal duties placed on employers and workers does vary throughout each country in the world. Even so, many will have the same basic intention of protecting people at work. There is a general recognition that most of the responsibility lies with the employer – since he provides the work, the workplace, the tools, systems, methods, etc. Though the terminology can vary throughout the world, it is a common theme that the law has certain behavioural expectations of both employers and workers. This includes exercising reasonable care in order to protect others from the risks of foreseeable injury, health problems or death at work. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is a United Nations (UN) agency. The ILO has been active in the area of health and safety standards, the principals of which have been widely adopted. In 1981, the ILO adopted the Occupational Health and Safety Convention (C155). This sets forth a basic goal-setting policy for health and safety at both the national level and the level of the individual undertaking. C155 is complemented by P155 – “the Protocol to the Occupational Health and Safety Convention 1981” which fleshes out some of provisions regarding reporting of occupational accidents etc. to national authorities. The Occupational Safety and Health Recommendation 1981 (R164) supplements C155 and provides more detailed guidance on how to comply with the policies of C155. In particular, it identifies obligations that might be placed on employers and workers in order to achieve the basic goal of a safe and healthy place of work. These basic ideas are widely enshrined in national legislation.
The Employer’s Basic Responsibilities Article 16 of C155 identifies some basic obligations on employers: 1.
Employers shall be required to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the workplaces, machinery, equipment and processes under their control are safe and without risk to health.
Employers shall be required to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the chemical, physical and biological substances and agents under their control are without risk to health when the appropriate measures of protection are taken.
Employers shall be required to provide, where necessary, adequate protective clothing and protective equipment to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, risk of accidents or of adverse effects on health.
Article 10 of R164 expands on what this might mean in practice. It identifies at least the following practical obligations to meet the objective of Article 16 of C155: (a)
to provide and maintain workplaces, machinery and equipment, and use work methods, which are as safe and without risk to health as is reasonably practicable;
(b) to give necessary instructions and training, taking account of the functions and capacities of different categories of workers;
to provide adequate supervision of work, of work practices and of application and use of occupational safety and health measures;
(d) to institute organisational arrangements regarding occupational safety and health and the working environment adapted to the size of the undertaking and the nature of its activities; (e)
to provide, without any cost to the worker, adequate personal protective clothing and equipment which are reasonably necessary when hazards cannot be otherwise prevented or controlled;
to ensure that work organisation, particularly with respect to hours of work and rest breaks, does not adversely affect occupational safety and health;
(g) to take all reasonably practicable measures with a view to eliminating excessive physical and mental fatigue; (h) to undertake studies and research or otherwise keep abreast of the scientific and technical knowledge necessary to comply with the foregoing clauses. Thus it is a reasonable expectation that every employer should provide a safe workplace and generally look after the health and safety of workers. This kind of principle is nearly always enshrined in law – though the actual extent of the duty may vary. This means that if an employer is aware of a health and safety risk to workers, or ought to have known of its existence (in the light of current knowledge at the time), he will be liable if an worker is injured, killed or suffers illness as a result of the risk and he (the employer) has failed to take reasonable steps to avoid it happening.
Worker’s Responsibilities and Rights Article 19 of C155 identifies obligations placed on all workers and their representatives to cooperate with their employer in regard to fulfilling his safety obligations. Workers should: (a)
take reasonable care for their own safety and that of other persons who may be affected by their acts or omissions at work;
(b) comply with instructions given for their own safety and health and those of others and with safety and health procedures; (c)
use safety devices and protective equipment correctly and do not render them inoperative;
(d) report forthwith to their immediate supervisor any situation which they have reason to believe could present a hazard and which they cannot themselves correct; (e)
report any accident or injury to health which arises in the course of or in connection with work.
Workers have a right to the provision of a safe workplace, as implied by the employer’s obligations. The following additional rights are identified in Article 19 of C155.
There shall be arrangements at the level of the undertaking under which…. (c)
representatives of workers in an undertaking are given adequate information on measures taken by the employer to secure occupational safety and health and may consult their representative organisations about such information provided they do not disclose commercial secrets;