Occupational illness and accidents can cost the economy millions of funds and, therefore, there is a need to prevent people from being harmed or becoming ill during work by providing a satisfactory working environment and taking the right precautions. The issue of safety and health issues at the workplace is a topic that must be handled with utmost seriousness by the management and employers since it directly affects the employees performance. Additionally, the employees must strive to be updated with the latest health and safety policies and requirement, so that they are in a position to enhance their own safety. Working conditions present varied threats and risks to the well-being of the people involved, and there are some external factors that play a part in the formulation and enactment of health and safety related policies within an organization. This paper will, therefore, explore some of the external factors that shape health safety at work (and how they influence the same) and look at how state intervention can turn around an organization failing in health and safety.
In all countries, there are legislations that guide organizations on health and safety. These legislations may undergo changes from time to time to conform to the ever-changing workplace environment. Since they are legal requirements, which all organizations may be required to strictly adhere to, any changes or additions will influence the actions of an organization in regards to health and safety. Consequently, failure to conform may render them liable to prosecution (Stranks, 2010). Therefore, an organization must have to constantly monitor and identify relevant legislation or requirements that may affect their policies on health and safety and adjust accordingly.
Advancement in technology that brings changes in industrial practices is another aspect that influences health and safety issues at work. These improvements bring about new ways and means of carrying out duties, which in turn present new kinds of risks that require changes in health and safety practices and policies. It is without a doubt that the organization would have to adapt so as to conform to the changes in industrial practices with regard to health and safety. Moreover, the need to adapt becomes continuous since the advancement in technology is not static either. Failure to adjust accordingly to the changes in the work environment, in response to the new and upcoming risks that result from the new technologies would pose major threat to the workers and additional costs to the employers (Reese, 2008).
Additionally, the international labor organization is a major influence on the health and safety regulations of organizations. Dealing with labor issues mainly, international labor standards and social protections register complaints against organizations that are violating the international rules, thereby ensuring the safety and health of its members. The organizations, therefore, acts like a watchdog monitoring to ensure employers and employees conform to health and safety standards. In this regards, the organization contributes immensely in shaping health and safety at work (Stranks, 2010).
The economic environment within which an organization operates plays a major role when it comes to health and safety issues in organizations. In countries with poor economies, such as developing and third world countries, it can be noted that health and safety issues are not taken as seriously as opposed to countries with well of economies- such as the developed countries (Reese, 2008). The same can be seen with high low-level industries as compared to high-end industries, whereby low-level industries, which are the small scale and informal industries, the concept of health and safety is non-existence or not fully embraced. Eventually, an organization operating in such an environment grows it tends to embrace more the issue of health and safety. This change in status, therefore, comes with additional responsibilities and challenges that affect the health and safety of the employees. As such, the need to address them leads to the formulation of policies that would safeguard the welfare of employees, by enhancing safety at the workplace. Apparently, changes in socio- economic environments within which an organization operates shapes the manner in which issues relating to health and safety are handled.
It is the duty of an organization to look at the work environment and identify the risks and hazards within the environment enabling them to come up with clear policies and guidelines on safety and health to be followed by members of the organization. It is these policies that give a clear guideline of safety precautions to be followed during the work process thereby increasing the safety standards of the organization. This should be followed by proper training and supervision of the employees. Undoubtedly, when setting up an organizations safety and health policies, it is vital to compare with the acts and legislations that are already in place for the same. Moreover, the organization needs to benchmark with the possible best health and safety practices world over. That said, it is, however, imperative for the employers to realize that no organization can be a picture- perfect replica of another (Reese, 2008). Therefore, the risks posed to the health and safety of their employees and employers must be unique to some extent.
Breach of health and safety legislation by an organization may be as a result of:- failure of the organization to provide and maintain their facilities for the safety and health of the employees at work, failure of the organization to ensure that machinery and equipment in the place of work are designed, made, set up, and maintained to be safe for employees, not having procedures to deal with emergencies when they arise at the place of work and the occurrence of illness or death of an employee that is work related (Reese, 2008).
Additionally, state intervention is evidenced in the formulations of acts and regulations that are meant to protect the welfare of workers and provide guidelines in case of a need for compensation. Examples of such acts include- Health and safety at Work Act of 1974 (c. 37)-which provides guidelines on how to handle health and safety issues in organizations in United Kingdom, and Health and safety Offenses act 2008 (c 20)- which primarily deals with enforcement of the various health and safety regulations in United Kingdom. Additionally the 2008 act has schedules that deal with consequential amendments and appeals. These regulations have clear outline of the procedures and policies that relate to employee safety and wellbeing. To ensure effectiveness and compliance with its policies, law enforcement officers are known to perform routine checks, by visiting organizations from time to time. Moreover, employees are encouraged to report cases of health and safety neglect by their employers to the relevant authorities. This health and safety awareness is importance in ensuring a healthy working environment (Stranks, 2010).
An example of a situation when the UK government intervened, in a case of health and safety breach, was in September, 2015, when Hugo Boss was fined a total of 1.2 million pounds, after a 4- year- old boy died in one of their outlets at Bicester Village. Austen Harrison died when a 114 kg changing mirror fell on him at the said Hugo Boss outlet. The company was charged, after the bosses admitted to safety breaches.
Any of the above breaches may warrant the organization or individual responsible for prosecution or fines as per the laws of the country by state intervention. An improvement or prohibiting notice may also be issued to the organization giving a deadline for them to comply that may provide for all operations to cease during the period stated until the organization meets the required regulations (Stranks, 2010).
For the organization to fully implement their health and safety policies, it is important to carry out a culture change campaign so as to get the employees fully onboard. Culturally, even if an initial change occurs the employees may soon find themselves falling back to their everyday practices and habits that they were accustomed to. The environment will influence peoples acceptance and ability to take onboard the newly set regulations (Stranks, 2010). People should be encouraged to feel comfortable to speak out when they notice someone taking unnecessary risks that they end up endangering the health and safety of themselves and those around them
Ultimately, the state regulations can only do so much. The bulk of the work is with the employer and employees and for each and every individual to take health and safety issues seriously putting the safety of themselves and those around them first. The external forces such as:- socio- economic environment within which a company operates, changes and advancements in technology, modification of legislative enactments and policies and the firms status, directly affects the way in which an organization handles the issues of health and safety at the workplace. Governments should also strictly enforce the laws of health and safety in the work environment by bringing to book those who breach them thereby saving on losses that are incurred to the economy as a result of poor health and safety.
Reese, C. (2008). Occupational Health and Safety Management. Boca Raton: CRC press.
Stranks, J. (2010). Health and Safety at Work. London: Kogan Page publishers.
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