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1.02 Safety, health and welfare at work? Why bother?
In effect, our concern is that the persons leave the area of XYZ control in a state of health and safety at least as good as when they entered it. This is not merely wishful thinking on the part of XYZ safety and health practitioners, but is, in fact, a legislated requirement.
An OSH Act exists legislating for the administration of occupational health and safety. This is the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994, (ref. Legislation section of this OSH Manual). Basically, if an employer has an unsafe workplace, that employer is in breach of the Act. To breach an Act of Malaysia Parliament is to break the Law. To break the Law is to leave the organisation - and those individual members of the organisation with responsibility for relevant areas - at risk of penalty - which includes the possibility of a prison sentence for offending individuals.
In very simple terms, the safety, health and welfare of all persons coming into contact with an area under control of XYZ, are the responsibility of whomever XYZ has nominated for the control of that area.
One of the core elements of an investigation of an incident is to find who had control of that area, and there is no area of a business operation that will not have someone found to be 'in control' by a DOSH inspector. At worst, everything will be regarded as being the responsibility of the XYZ General Manager. (Underlining why it is important for each employee - whether the General Manager or a line-employee - to know their designated areas of responsibility: if any doubt exists, the responsibility will rise up the line!)
To give an example, let’s look at what happens should something ‘go wrong’.
An investigator from the statutory body will attend an incident scene and very early in the piece, look for the system breakdown. If there is no system in place for an operation, there is automatically a negative mark in the investigator’s notebook against the organisation. If there is sign of confusion as to who has control of the area on behalf of the organisation, this is another negative, and so on. It rarely takes too long to discover the person or persons in control of areas, and it is these persons who may bear the full brunt of the Law, unless other, extenuating circumstances exist. These circumstances usually push the responsibility further up the line of the organisational chart. Finally the trail will stop at the highest executive level – provided that level was clearly given full authority – including financial control - for all operational decision making (which is why even a CEO may be found not entirely responsible if the Board maintains too much day-to-day operational control. In this circumstance, the path is currently clear for a statutory body to prosecute Board members).
It becomes patently clear these persons must have an overview of all operational sub-sections likely to impact positively or negatively on any XYZ operation. This includes the management of safety, health and welfare itself.
If safety, health and welfare is ‘hidden’ down the line in the organisational chart, it becomes ‘forgotten’ at the higher levels (where it really counts) and authority – both moral and monetary - is watered down. Due diligence and care gets lost in the rush to achieve goals, and so on.
This is recognised in the political world, and legislation is continually seeking out ways to improve systems and management, and achieve good quality safety in workplaces. In fact, in Malaysia, there is legislation in the construction industry making safety and health training absolutely compulsory for all who work on a construction site. A one-day safety and health induction course, with a registration number for each attendee, is a 'must do'. This is to assist the construction site's Principal Contractor achieve the duty-of-care required by the Malaysia Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). Even then, with as many 'foreseeable' controls in place, lives are unfortunately lost. A statistic to consider: in Malaysia, at the end of each day, over eleven persons are dead as a result of workplace injury and illness*. Each of whom probably thought, along with their management: “It can’t happen here…” Worse, they may have thought: "Health and safety? Isn't it just common sense?" (Refer to the dictionary - document number 1-10 - for the definition of 'common sense'.)
*Based on the 2001/02 SOCSO figures.
We have good ‘best practice’ guidelines in Malaysia – and death, illness and injury still happen. This, alone, should be reason enough for those in control of workplaces to practice good quality OSH techniques. However, add this to the opening sentence of s.15(i) of the OSH Act 1994 ("It shall be the duty of every employer and every self employed person to ensure, so far as is practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of all his employees"), and it is obvious there is an absolute need for management to be clear about their health and safety obligations.
A final, sobering thought:
In the April 2002 edition of Strata Life (page 7) under the banner "Warning! New OH&S Legislation: Do You Comply", the author, James Freestun of Solutions in Engineering Pty Ltd quotes an OSH legal expert: "You never win an OH&S prosecution, you only minimise your losses."
Sunday, October 02, 2011
Related Posts: Accident, Akta, Hazard Prevention, Health, Malaysia, Occupational Safety and Health Management System, OSHA 1994, OSHMS, OSHMS Manual, SOCSO, tips