workplace injuries

Additional Information on Workplace Injuries

Occupational health and safety is a cross-disciplinary area concerned with protecting the safety, health and welfare of people engaged in work or employment. The goal of all occupational health and safety programs is to foster a safe work environment.[1] As a secondary effect, it may also protect co-workers, family members, employers, customers, suppliers, nearby communities, and other members of the public who are impacted by the workplace environment. It may involve interactions among many subject areas, including occupational medicine, occupational (or industrial) hygiene, public health, safety engineering, chemistry, health physics.

Definition

Since 1950, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have shared a common definition of occupational health. It was adopted by the Joint ILO/WHO Committee on Occupational Health at its first session in 1950 and revised at its twelfth session in 1995. The definition reads: “Occupational health should aim at: the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being of workers in all occupations; the prevention amongst workers of departures from health caused by their working conditions; the protection of workers in their employment from risks resulting from factors adverse to health; the placing and maintenance of the worker in an occupational environment adapted to his physiological and psychological capabilities; and, to summarize, the adaptation of work to man and of each man to his job.”

Relationship to occupational health psychology

Occupational health psychology (OHP), a related discipline, is a relatively new field that combines elements of occupational health and safety, industrial/organizational psychology, and health psychology.[2] The field is concerned with identifying work-related psychosocial factors that adversely affect the health of people who work. OHP is also concerned with developing ways to effect change in workplaces for the purpose of improving the health of people who work. For more detail on OHP, see the section on occupational health psychology.

Reasons for Occupational health and safety

The event of an incident at work (such as legal fees, fines, compensatory damages, investigation time, lost production, lost goodwill from the workforce, from customers and from the wider community).

Legal – Occupational requirements may be reinforced in civil law and/or criminal law; it is accepted that without the extra “encouragement” of potential regulatory action or litigation, many organizations would not act upon their implied moral obligations.

Occupational health and safety officers promote health and safety procedures in an organization. They recognize hazards and measure health and safety risks, set suitable safety controls in place, and give recommendations on avoiding accidents to management and employees in an organization. This paper looks at the main tasks undertaken by OHS practitioners in Europe, Australia and the USA, and the main knowledge and skills that are required of them. “Like it or not, organizations have a duty to provide health and safety training. But it could involve much more than you think.” (Damon, Nadia. 2008. ‘Reducing The Risks’, Training and Coaching Today, United Kingdom, pg.14)

Safety Professionals in the USA

The main tasks undertaken by the OHS practitioner in the USA include:

  • Develop processes, procedures, criteria, requirements, and methods to attain the best possible management of the hazards and exposures that can cause injury to people, and damage property, or the environment;
  • Apply good business practices and economic principles for efficient use of resources to add to the importance of the safety processes;
  • Promote other members of the company to contribute by exchanging ideas and other different approaches to make sure that every one in the corporation possess OHS knowledge and have functional roles in the development and execution of safety procedures;
  • Assess services, outcomes, methods, equipment, workstations, and procedures by using qualitative and quantitative methods to recognize the hazards and measure the related risks;
  • Examine all possibilities, effectiveness, reliability, and expenditure to attain the best results for the company concerned (Board of Certified Safety Professionals, 2006, “Examination Guide” accessed 20 April).

Knowledge required by the OHS professional in USA include:

  • Constitutional and case law controlling safety, health, and the environment
  • Operational procedures to plan/ develop safe work practices
  • Safety, health and environmental sciences
  • Design of hazard control systems (i.e. fall protection, scaffoldings)
  • Design of record keeping systems that take collection into account, as well as storage, interpretation, and dissemination
  • Mathematics and statistics
  • Processes and systems for attaining safety through design (Board of Certified Safety Professionals, 2006)

Some skills required by the OHS professional in the USA include (but are not limited to):

  • Understanding and relating to systems, policies and rules
  • Holding checks and having control methods for possible hazardous exposures
  • Mathematical and statistical analysis
  • Examining manufacturing hazards
  • Planning safe work practices for systems, facilities, and equipment
  • Understanding and using safety, health, and environmental science information for the improvement of procedures
  • Interpersonal communication skills (Board of Certified Safety Professionals, 2006)

National implementing legislation

Different states take different approaches to legislation, regulation, and enforcement.
In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 created both the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).[3] OSHA, in the U.S. Department of Labor, is responsible for developing and enforcing workplace safety and health regulations. NIOSH, in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is focused on research, information, education, and training in occupational safety and health.[4]

OSHA have been regulating occupational safety and health since 1971. Occupational safety and health regulation of a limited number of specifically defined industries was in place for several decades before that, and broad regulations by some individual states was in place for many years prior to the establishment of OSHA.

workplace injuries

Identifying Safety and Health Hazards

Hazards, risks, outcomes

The terminology used in OSH varies between states, but generally speaking:

  • A hazard is something that can cause harm if not controlled.
  • The outcome is the harm that results from an uncontrolled hazard.
  • A risk is a combination of the probability that a particular outcome will occur and the severity of the harm involved.

“Hazard”, “risk”, and “outcome” are used in other fields to describe e.g. environmental damage, or damage to equipment. However, in the context of OSH, “harm” generally describes the direct or indirect degradation, temporary or permanent, of the physical, mental, or social well-being of workers. For example, repetitively carrying out manual handling of heavy objects is a hazard. The outcome could be a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) or an acute back or joint injury. The risk can be expressed numerically (e.g. a 0.5 or 50/50 chance of the outcome occurring during a year), in relative terms (e.g. “high/medium/low”), or with a multi-dimensional classification scheme (e.g. situation-specific risks).

Hazard Assessment

Hazard analysis or hazard assessment is a process in which individual hazards of the workplace are identified, assessed and controlled/eliminated as close to source (location of the hazard) as reasonable and possible. As technology, resources, social expectation or regulatory requirements change, hazard analysis focuses controls more closely toward the source of the hazard. Thus hazard control is a dynamic program of prevention. Hazard-based programs also have the advantage of not assigning or implying there are “acceptable risks” in the workplace. A hazard-based program may not be able to eliminate all risks, but neither does it accept “satisfactory” — but still risky—outcomes. And as those who calculate and manage the risk are usually managers while those exposed to the risks are a different group, workers, a hazard-based approach can by-pass conflict inherent in a risk-based approach.

Risk assessment

Further information: Risk assessment#Risk assessment in public health

Modern occupational safety and health legislation usually demands that a risk assessment be carried out prior to making an intervention. It should be kept in mind that risk management requires risk to be managed to a level which is as low as is reasonably practical.

This assessment should:

  • Identify the hazards
  • Identify all affected by the hazard and how
  • Evaluate the risk
  • Identify and prioritize appropriate control measures

The calculation of risk is based on the likelihood or probability of the harm being realized and the severity of the consequences. This can be expressed mathematically as a quantitative assessment (by assigning low, medium and high likelihood and severity with integers and multiplying them to obtain a risk factor, or qualitatively as a description of the circumstances by which the harm could arise.

The assessment should be recorded and reviewed periodically and whenever there is a significant change to work practices. The assessment should include practical recommendations to control the risk. Once recommended controls are implemented, the risk should be re-calculated to determine of it has been lowered to an acceptable level. Generally speaking, newly introduced controls should lower risk by one level, i.e., from high to medium or from medium to low.

Information compiled from Wikipedia

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