Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) in the workplace requires co-operation from both employers and employees to ensure that the workplace is a healthy and safe environment. Both employees and employers are required to co-operate by the rights and responsibilities that are set for them.
OH&S is the safety procedures in place in every enterprise to ensure both the health and safety of each and every employee.
It is the responsibility of employers, who are legally (due to the OH&S Act 1996, 2001 amendment) and morally obliged to provide a safe and healthy environment. It is also the employee’s responsibility to co-operate with employers in maintaining health and safety at work.
Employers are required to:
-Provide a safe and healthy workplace
-Provide and maintain a safe system of work
-Provide the required resources (safety clothing & equipment)
-Provide information and training for employees to work in a safe and healthy environment
-Provide a process to identify, assess and then eliminate unsafe practices and hazards
-All relevant laws must be followed
-Ensure that employees carry out workplace rules.
In the same way, employees have the right to be provided with the above-mentioned elements from their employers.
It is also the employee’s obligation to abide by these regulations. Any employee who fails to meet their responsibilities can be disciplined under award conditions.
WorkCover is also responsible for safety in the workplace. They are required to conduct regular checks in the workplace to ensure that the OHS act is being followed and that hazards are kept to a minimum.
In most states, workers are represented through either an OHS representative or an OHS Committee depending on the size of the enterprise.
Hazards are categorised into 4 different sections; Physical, Chemical, Ergonomic and Biological.
It is important to be aware that a hazard does not have to be seen for it to exist. Quite often hazards you can’t see – such as ultra violet radiation, are only appreciated when it is too late to prevent damage.
Many hazards have been made known in the workplace. Some of these include:
·Power leads on ground
·Equipment in walkways
·Temperature often too hot or too cold
·Glare from windows and lights
These hazards can be fixed by ensuring that the OHS committee is kept informed of these problems, and they can then ensure that they are fixed, in cases such as exposed wires. Things such as anti-glare screens can help the prevent the glare on the computer screens, and also moving employees desks away from the air-conditioning vent can help with the temperature problems.
Another cause for concern is the ergonomic factors. People do not sit in their chairs correctly and are causing backaches and injuries. To prevent injuries you should have;
·Feet flat on the floor
·Knees at a 90 degree angle
·Back at 90-100 degrees
·Relaxed shoulders and;
Employees should take regular breaks and use their workstations ergonomically so that fewer injuries occur.
There are also a few more Acts such as the Anti Discrimination Act (1977) and the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and Workers Compensation Act 1987, which are all there to protect employees in the workplace.
The Anti Discrimination Act aims to protect all employees in the work environment from being discriminated against on many things such as:
If an employee feels as though they are being discriminated against, for any of the fore mentioned things then they should first try to approach the perpetrator and ask them to stop. If this behaviour continues, or they feel they cannot approach the perpetrator then they should report immediately to their employer or supervisor for further action.
The Sex Discrimination Act aims to protect employees from being sexually harassed by someone in the workplace. Sexual harassment is any unwanted attention in an incorrect manner, whether it be:
·Making sexual comments
·Making sexual gestures
·Asking someone out on a date continuously
·Sending inappropriate materials
Again if this happens, you should approach the perpetrator and let them know how you are feeling. If this behaviour continues, or they feel they cannot approach the perpetrator then they should report immediately to their employer or supervisor for further action.
The Workers Compensation Act is where employers insure workers against the possibility of suffering injury arising out of or in the course of employment. If an injury does occur the worker can apply for Workers Compensation where they can receive money to cover their losses, and to pay for medical treatment. Workers Compensation can also be paid to the families of workers who die because of a work injury.
In conclusion, it is evident that co-operation from both employers and their employees is needed to ensure that the work place is a healthy and safe environment, with the help of legislations along the way.