Occupational Health and Safety
Occupational Health and Safety is associated with the physical, physiological and psychosocial conditions of an organisation’s workforce, allied to aspects of work and the work context (De Cieri & Kramar, 2003, pp. 99). Occupational health and safety is a necessary and fundamental aspect in any productive organisations. Work-related injuries, diseases and stress and quality of the working-life of the employees are related to the employees’ effectiveness. (Stone, 2002, pp. 646). Barling (2004) stated that occupational health and safety is a major issue for employees, and how management deals with this issue of both academic and practical significance. The most frequent organizational approaches used to produce a sufficient level of safety have focused on the optimal design of equipment (i.e., an ergonomic approach), adherence with government-imposed standards (i.e., a legislative approach), or compliance with the terms of collective agreements. Therefore, systematic approaches to occupational safety and health are rapidly emerging internationally as the pre-eminent strategy for employers to reduce occupational illness and injury. In addition, Schulte (2002) stated that the aim of the pre-eminent strategy is to improve knowledge, increase understanding, and apply information to specific problems. There are three topics that are emerged in this paper, those are: the significance of Occupational Health and Safety management and planning, Occupational Health and Safety Hazard example (work-related stress) and the development Occupational Health and Safety cultures in each organization as the solutions in preventing the Occupational Health and Safety Issues.
The Significance of Occupational Health and Safety Management and Planning
All researchers proved that how important OH&S knowledge is by the global burden of occupational death rates. The workforce of the world is approximately 2.9 billion out of a total of 6.2 billion people, and they work in a range of situations from pre-industrial to high technology and information (Schulte, 2002). Moreover, in between year 1996 to 1998, there were 47,803 workplace major injuries (Kleiman, 2000). Statistics suggest that each year the cost to the Australian community resulting from occupational illness, injury and disease is approximately $3 billion
Prevention is always better than cure (Deitchman et al., 2001). While an employer’s manners after an accident can have significant ongoing consequences for the conduct of a suit, this should not distract the employer from the primary objective of preventing accidents in the first place (Pearn, 2002). Ideally, Deitchman et al. (2001) suggested that work-related injuries and illnesses should be prevented rather than relying leading treatment. In theory, Macintosh and Gough (1998) have found that accident prevention is the foundation and nobody wants workers to be injured. Health and Safety programs reflect the organisation’s strategic concern for employee productivity and quality of life (Stone, 2002). Therefore, various countries particularly the United States, Canada, Australia, and European countries foster international collaboration in research and training. With the OH&S programs, they are linked with the organisation’s strategic business objectives to seek competitive advantage by promoting employee commitment, the company’s image as a preferred employer, reduced cost and increased productivity.
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Example of Occupational Health and Safety Hazards
One of the work-related health issues is stress. Stress experience is common to everyone in modern societies and it has become a major threat to the health. Selye(1964) first found it is relevant to the idea, the strain that experience by a person at work gives negative impacts on physical and psychological health (Fevre, Matheny and Kolt, 2003). Thereafter the meaning of the stress became more complicated with the wide range of researches that were conducted (Hart, 1990). Thus the literature on this area proves that all occupations are involved in stress with a different degree depending on the occupation type, for instances, teachers, nurses, ambulance workers, train drivers, managers, funeral service practitioners, police officers and some other customer service and social service workers are some of the high degree stress related occupations. Such occupations are inherited in stress because of the external forces such as work load, threat to career development and achievement, being undervalued, unclear promotions, personal relationships, high noise levels, lack of privacy, role based factors such as lack of power, role ambiguity and role conflict (Fairbrother and Warn, 2002).Apart from that there are some other common factors that develop stresses on a person such as harassment and discrimination, work family balance (Goldenhar, Gershon, Muller Karkasian, Swansom, 2001). Especially occupations like nursing and policing are involved in death incidents, hence have a higher degree of stress (Johnson, Cooper, Cartwright, Donald and Taylor, Millet 2005).
There are some implication of stress to the employees that can categorise stress as occupational health and safety hazard. In most of the cases it is a common aspect to talk about heart diseases and how premature heart attacks (Johnson, Cooper, Cartwright, Donald and Taylor, Millet, 2005). These are called as the final stage of ill health. At this stage, the stress results heart disease, gastrointestinal disturbances (Johnson, Cooper, Cartwright, Donald and Taylor, Millet, 2005). Eriksson’s and Wallin’s (2004) research on neurobiology found that burnout syndrome which is a stress related situation creates adults brain plasticity and develop psychiatric diagnoses. Apart from that some psychologist have attempted a concept that people get addicted to alcohols and drugs etc. to over come the stress (Johnson, Cooper, Cartwright, Donald and Taylor, Millet, 2005) which ultimately effect of a person’s health.
The psychologists have concluded that it is stress that causes mental and physical ill-health the most, therefore they have introduced to the management many different old and new models for implementation to overcome and control the stress at the work place.
The Development Occupational Health and Safety Cultures as Possible Solutions for Occupational Health and Safety Issues
Safety culture is concerned in minimizing the risk to individual of dangerous conditions, such as workplace violence, accident and faults, through collective effort, interaction and shared stakeholder responsibility (Cheyne et al, 2002; O’Brien & Garavan, 2001). Safety culture can contribute to the optimum environment of an organisation, while ensuring clear organisational structure, appropriate resource allocation, organisational learning capabilities, transparent processes and systems, to maximise the opportunity for communication and trust and participation (Cheyne et al, 2002 & Clarke, 2003).
There are some cultures that may have to be implemented inside the organisation as a safety culture, which also can be contributed as possible solution in preventing Occupational Health and Safety issues, such as work-related stress. First is suggested by Clarke, 2003; Fuller & Vassie, 2003; Geller, 2001; Dilley & Kleiner (1996), is the trust between all stakeholders. Second is the honest, equitable and accessible communication, which can guarantee shared knowledge and understanding between all members of the organisation (Clarke, 2003; Frosdick, 1995; Fuller, 2002; Mozza & Wyld, 2002; Zwetsloot, 2001). Next is participation with the aim of encouraging employees in engaging actively in decision-making process and implementation strategies (Ariss, 2003; Dilley and Kleiner, 1996; Mozza & Wyld, 2002; Zwetsloot, 2001). Leadership is another possible culture to be implemented inside the organization, which reflected in planning, long term commitment, creativity and positive actions of managers, to endorse resource and support active involvement in safety activities and participation (Geller, 2001; Zwetsloot, 2001). Moreover, it is widely accepted that, employees require correlative abilities, skills, and knowledge to empower them to create a safe work environment. In this situation, particular train is necessary to achieve that goal, meanwhile, full understanding, sharing and awareness of all factors impacting on safety is need (Ariss, 2003; Mozza & Wyld, 2002; Zwetsloot, 2001). Clarke (2003), on the other hand, implies that appropriate motivation can achieve mutual benefit and outcomes for all members. And lastly, appropriate motivation is meaningful for establishing a shared commitment to expand and deepen group co-operation through the development of teamwork, enabling the constructive expression of collective will (Clarke, 2003; Fuller & Vassie, 2003; Fuller and Vassie, 2002; Zwetsloot, 2001).
Discussion on the gaps found in the literature and Conclusion
Occupational health and safety is currently becoming a worldwide concern in the organization, with a particular emphasis on management’s role of motivating, implementing and supporting health and safety programs. The study on Occupational Health and Safety management is very broad, and the focus on this paper is based on three key areas, those are: the significance of occupational health and safety management and planning, example of occupational health and safety hazard, and the possible solutions of it. However, during the literature studies, there are some gaps found that become issues that has to be examined in the future. The first gap that is found is in the research areas of female workers’ health (Fielden and Cooper, 2001) and the stress difference on gender where the literature on female psychology is relatively less. Another gap found in the occupational health and safety literature is that most of the studies do not count the age in their research projects. There is a significant gap in the studies on stress where the psychologists do not make an effort to find the stress degree on personal qualities. Apart from that view of cultural differences cause stress has received some treatment in the unpopular literature. Next gap is found that the definition of “safety culture” is ambiguous and requires further investigation. Moreover, although researchers have described the methods for exhibiting the alignment of cultures, the approach did not provide an assessment of the organisation's cultural maturity (Fuller and Vassie, 2003). Furthermore, based on Arezes & Miguel (2003), it raises an interesting question. Even there are many studies concerned about risk perception in high-risk or complex environments, such as nuclear and chemical plants. However, only a few available studies exist in occupational environments with some trivial risks but have high probability to occur.
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