Occupational safety and health, or OSH, is concerned with the safety, health, and welfare of people at work. This can often be confused with a problem that only manual labor fields endure, but occupational safety actually impacts a large number of industries worldwide. The OSH Law was created in 1970 requiring employers to commit themselves towards providing a safe workplace. Statistically, every seven seconds an employee is injured on a job, a statistic that employers and governments can benefit from working towards the reduction of this. Consistently updating and monitoring safety regulations helps to enable an environment where safety is never ignored, and instead rewarded.
On The Job Safety
In every profession, it’s important to be aware of the risks that may be involved, but some occupations are notoriously more dangerous than others. The construction industry is one of the most hazardous, accounting for 20% of on the job fatalities. This is majorly due to the “final four”, or the four main areas of concern on a construction site including falls, electrocutions, being struck by an object, or caught in or between tools and machinery. Prioritizing safety regulations and ongoing safety training has proven to decrease job site fatalities each year.
Occupational Related Disease
There are other lesser known dangers that exist in work environments as well. Lead paint has been of concern for decades and continues to be to this day. It’s most commonly found in older homes, but can be a problem for renovation professionals. Although it was banned in the use of construction in 1978, this doesn’t mean it’s no longer of concern. If working in an old building or home, with the risks of lead present, lead poisoning becomes a concern. Because lead poisoning symptoms such as high blood pressure and joint and muscle pain are easily confused with other illnesses, it’s important to be aware of a work environment and elements in the space.
Asbestos is the most notorious occupational toxin linked to deadly diseases. Similar to lead, asbestos is typically not dangerous unless disturbed. If inhaled, asbestos can have major health repercussions. Occupational exposure to asbestos can have many health implications such as asbestosis and mesothelioma, cancer that may affect the lining of the heart, lungs, or stomach. It’s believed that more than 1 million construction workers are exposed to asbestos each year.
Being aware of your surroundings should be considered a cardinal rule in the workplace. The EPA recognizes a term known as a “sick building”, and believes 1 in 4 renovated buildings are impacted. Sick Building Syndrome, or SBS, is most commonly accredited to poor ventilation in the office, therefore leading to the buildup of toxins. Although it may be difficult to attribute someone’s symptoms to this, it can be linked back if it is noticed that someone feels better as soon as they leave said building. There are a number of symptoms including:
- Eye irritation
- Asthma attacks
- Flu like symptoms
Although this does not present a life-threatening illness, if it continues for an extended period of time it can significantly impact a person’s productivity and overall wellbeing.
Neck Back & Spine
All workspaces can present some sort of risk, and offices are no different. The dangers in an office aren’t as frightening, but still pose a threat to employees, and can present issues for employers along the way. Considering the actual office space itself, a first step is making sure the layout is logical and nothing is out of place or in the way that may cause an employee to fall, trip, or slip. The main point of concern within an office setting is ergonomics. This entails how employees sit at their desks, work on their computer, and even hold the phone. Although it comes across as minor, long term health problems that arise from poor workplace ergonomics can be painful and impact the rest of someone’s career. To ensure employees are aware of this, conduct ergonomics courses to educate them on the potential risks, and how to perform their duties safely. Providing the proper resources for employees helps to encourage them to do further research on their own and continue these practices while on the job or at home
Educating a team should be the first step before stepping onto a job site or entering the office. The responsibility of HR is vast, and creating awareness by implementing safety procedures and courses is a responsibility that should rank at the top of the list. The phrase “time is money” is often thrown around, but in a situation such as this where the wellbeing of employees is at stake, it’s worth the time and extra money to create a safe workspace that is filled with a prepared workforce.