Every workplace has its own unique set of hazards and risks. The employer must identify and assess these hazards and put the proper controls in place to protect workers from potential harm. This may involve implementing safety procedures, providing personal protective equipment, training workers on performing their job tasks safely, and conducting regular safety inspections to identify and address potential hazards.
Occupational Health Safety is particularly important in industries that involve hazardous materials or environments, such as construction, manufacturing, and mining. However, it is equally important in office environments, where hazards might include ergonomic issues or slips, trips, and falls.
As per BLS, 2.6 million workplace injuries and illnesses were reported in the United States in 2021. And according to OSHA, workplace accidents cost employers nearly $171 billion annually.
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Why is Occupational Health Safety Important?
OHS refers to the policies, procedures, and practices designed to ensure workplace safety, health, and well-being. This includes protecting workers from hazards and injuries and promoting healthy habits and behaviors.
Employers need to ensure that their actions and policies do not risk the health and safety of their workers. Likewise, employees are also responsible for taking care of their health and safety, as well as that of their co-workers, by following safety procedures and using personal protective equipment (PPE) as required.
OHS is a rapidly growing field with strong job prospects as businesses and organizations increasingly recognize the importance of protecting workers. If you are interested in protecting workers’ health and safety, you can opt for a degree in this field to kickstart your career. Likewise, occupational health and safety bachelor degree online is an advanced program that is convenient and flexible, and you can pursue it while fulfilling your other job duties. The program offers a comprehensive understanding of occupational health and safety principles and the technical skills needed to implement and manage in the workplace.
Understanding Workplace Hazards
Workplace hazards are any conditions or situations in the workplace that have the potential to cause harm to workers. These include:
- Physical hazards – Hazards related to the physical environment like slips, trips, and falls; machinery and equipment; and fire and explosion risks.
- Biological hazards – Illnesses or diseases related to living organisms, such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
- Chemical hazards – Use of hazardous chemicals in the workplace, such as toxic gases, liquids, and dust.
- Ergonomic hazards – Hazards related to the design and layout of the work environment that can cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and other types of injuries.
- Psychological hazards – Psychological factors such as elevated stress levels, exposure to violence, or harassment in a toxic work environment.
Significance of Occupational Health and Safety
Now let us look at the profound reasons for studying OHS in workplaces:
1. Reduce Risks and Accidents
OHS focuses on protecting the health, safety, and welfare of workers in the workplace, and it does so by reducing workplace risks and accidents in the following ways:
- Identifying hazards – OHS professionals are trained to identify potential hazards in the workplace and assess the level of risk they pose to workers. By identifying hazards early on, it is possible to take steps to eliminate or control them before they cause harm.
- Implementing controls – OHS professionals can help implement controls to reduce or eliminate hazards. This could include engineering controls, such as installing guards or barriers to prevent accidents, or administrative controls, such as creating procedures or policies to ensure safe work practices.
- Providing training – OHS professionals can train workers to identify and control hazards in their work environment. This can include personal protective equipment (PPE) training, safe work practices, and emergency procedures.
2. Improve Reputation
By investing in OHS training and implementing effective safety measures, businesses and organizations can demonstrate their commitment to the health and safety of their employees. This can be especially important for companies with a higher risk of injuries, such as construction, manufacturing, and mining industries.
Companies with a compelling reputation for safety may be more attractive to top talent, as employees often value a safe and healthy work environment. In addition, a strong safety record can help companies retain their top employees, as workers may be less likely to leave an organization if they feel their safety is a priority.
3. Enhance Efficiency and Productivity
When workers are injured or become ill because of their work, they may need time off to recover, which can reduce the overall productivity of the business or organization.
OHS professionals can conduct risk assessments to determine the likelihood and severity of potential accidents or incidents. This can help reduce absenteeism and increase productivity as workers are less likely to be absent or unproductive due to illness or injury.
Additionally, when workers feel safe and supported in their work environment, they are more likely to be engaged, motivated, and committed to their work, which can also contribute to increased efficiency.
4. Build Employee Relations and Morale
A strong commitment to OHS can help build mutual respect between employees and management, as it demonstrates a commitment to the well-being of workers. This includes:
- Improved communication – By educating employees about OHS, organizations can improve communication and foster a culture of transparency and trust.
- Increased job satisfaction – When employees feel safe and healthy at work, they are more likely to be satisfied with their job and feel more motivated to perform at their best.
- Stronger sense of community – When employees work together to identify and address safety and health concerns, they can develop a stronger sense of community and camaraderie within the organization.
5. Reduce the Cost of Injuries and Accidents
Workplace accidents or injuries can result in various costs, including medical expenses, lost productivity, and potential legal and financial liabilities.
By implementing OHS practices, businesses and organizations can reduce the costs associated with workplace injuries and accidents. For example, providing personal protective equipment and training workers on how to perform their job tasks safely can help to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries. In addition, by investing in ergonomic equipment and design, businesses and organizations can help prevent musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and other types of injuries, reducing the costs associated with rehabilitation.
Insurance premiums and workers’ compensation claims can be high costs for businesses and organizations, and they are often based on the level of risk in the workplace. Organizations with good OHS records often qualify for lower insurance premiums, which helps save money on insurance costs.
6. Promote Mental Health and Well being
OHS can help promote mental well-being by addressing hazards and risks that can negatively affect an employee’s mental health. Here are a few ways:
- Reducing stress – OHS can help identify sources of stress in the workplace, such as high workloads, tight deadlines, or conflicts with colleagues. By addressing these issues, organizations can help reduce stress and thus promote better mental health for their employees.
- Encouraging work-life balance – OHS practices promote work-life balance by implementing policies and procedures that encourage employees to take breaks, use vacation time, and disconnect from work outside regular working hours.
- Creating a positive culture – A positive and supportive work culture that prioritizes the well-being of employees can also contribute to better mental health. OHS practices help organizations create and maintain such a culture by fostering open communication, promoting teamwork, and recognizing and rewarding positive contributions.
In today’s world, OHS is particularly important because many businesses face increasingly complex and changing work environments, which can present new risks and hazards that need to be managed. With OHS measures in place, employees are more likely to work in a safe and healthy environment, leading to increased productivity and job satisfaction.