Workplace Health & Safety

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Understanding your responsibilities as a manager means that you do not just understand health and safety, but that you live it. In this module, we will look at your role in maintaining a healthy and safe workplace, and what areas of additional training you may want to explore.

Understanding Your Role and Responsibilities

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Each province, territory, state, or country that you work in has regulations and legislation that are produced and enforced by the appropriate levels of government. This also generally means that workers who work within the scope of that legislation have access to benefits such as medical care and wage replacement because of related insurance. In some places, they may also receive benefits for family members. 

The essence of workers’ compensation programs meant that workers in designated occupations could receive assistance in the form of wage replacement and medical care if they were the subject of a work related injury. In addition, the organization that they work for is protected from civil suit put forward by the employee who has been injured (meaning that the employee is not able to receive damages from a lawsuit where they charge the employer for being responsible for their injuries). The governing bodies can level fines against an employer who disregards the health and safety of their workforce, in addition to charging insurance premiums sufficient to cover the costs of the programs. 

It is very important for you, as a people leader, to understand the aspects of federal as well as provincial and territorial rules for each jurisdiction that you operate in. Each jurisdiction provides frequent training as well as information about your obligations and responsibilities under current legislation and codes. 

Understanding Local and Industry Specific Rules

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If you have health and safety staff within your organization, they can bring you up to speed very quickly on the local rules that govern your workplace. They are probably very competent at what they do, but you are the one responsible for having the required systems in place that meet the requirements of your legal obligations. 

As an example, employees who work in positions that put them at risk of injury need safety training before they enter a worksite, not several days later. Workplace Health Materials Information Systems (WHMIS); issues of fall protection; and wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as ear plugs, safety vests, and so on; are all a part of that safety training. Employees who work alone may also be subject to certain legislation that will have an impact on the way that you work. Be sure to speak with experts in the field and be diligent about your research to get the information that you require. 

Certain industries have special rules, and these can differ widely from one area to another. If you are working in trades, transportation, federally regulated industries, or agriculture, expect to see exceptions to things that you may already know. 

Here are some resources for finding more information in your area.

AreaOrganizationWeb Site
North AmericaNorth American Occupational Safety & Healthhttp://www.naosh.org
CanadaCanadian Center for Occupational Health and Safetyhttp://www.ccohs.ca 
United States of AmericaOccupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)http://www.osha.gov  
MexicoSecretaría del Trabajo y Prevision Social http://www.stps.gob.mx/ENGLISH/index.htm 
European Union (EU)European Agency for Safety and Health at Workhttp://osha.europa.eu/ 
Great BritainHealth and Safety Executivehttp://www.hse.gov.uk/ 
Asia and PacificAsia-Pacific Occupational Safety and Health Organizationhttp://www.aposho.org 
AustraliaSafe Work Australiahttp://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au 

Training for Managers

You can expect to find training in the following areas:

  • Working with Occupational Health and Safety Legislation 
  • Incident Investigation Skills
  • Fundamentals of Inspections
  • Hazard Assessment and Control

Each area is well defined. Some examples are included below.

  • Working with occupational health and safety legislation will provide you with access to pertinent rules and regulations specific to your region and industry. 
  • Incident investigation skills are not about finding blame for an incident (although that may be a result). Investigations identify root causes of injuries and incidents, and then put practices into place to avoid recurrences or minimize potential for further injuries or damage. 
  • Inspections involve systematic observation of worksites, work conditions, work practices, and equipment to identify hazards or poor work practices and make recommendations for improvement. 
  • Hazard Assessment and Control is a process to continually monitor all aspects of a workplace and to determine whether practices need to change in order to maintain the health and safety of the workplace. Examples include small tasks like posting “wet floor” signs, to larger jobs involving the controls placed on noxious substances. 

Work involved in any of these processes does not just minimize exposure for workers and improve the safety record of a workplace. Often, inspections and hazard assessment can identify opportunities to reduce waste and increase productivity, quality, and efficiency, in addition to improving the health and safety of the workplace. 

Case Study

Josephine and Harold were worried about the lack of training for Occupational Health and Safety legislation for managers within their company and had been working on a new regime to train them with regards to this. They were stuck on ideas for which fields managers should be trained in to agree with current legislation in their state until Harold suggested they research and definite those criteria. Josephine agreed, and together they discovered that their managers would need training in: Working with Occupational Health and Safety Legislation; Incident Investigation Skills; Fundamentals of Inspections and Hazard Assessment and Control. Josephine and Harold were happy they clarified their needs and immediately began implementing training schedules for these areas by consulting with health and safety staff within their organization.