Indians spend around 8.1 hours every day at work, longer than most other countries in the developed world. But spending so much time at work means that employees are more exposed to workplace hazards. Even a seemingly safe office can harbour a number of potential dangers, from mould in the walls to breathing in recirculated air. Health and safety should be part of your company culture, and while everyone has an individual responsibility to play their part in creating a healthy and safe workplace, it’s up to HR to administer, communicate and promote health and safety policies, and make sure everyone follows the safety guidelines.
It’s estimated that 313 million workers worldwide experience non-fatal accidents and diseases linked with their workplace, while 2.78 million workers are thought to die each year from work-related diseases and accidents. Some of the most common hazards can include trips and falls, manual handling, exposure to hazardous substances, and biological hazards such as bacteria and viruses. If your workplace is in an area with high humidity levels, susceptible to dampness or leaks, or has been flooded recently, this could cause black mould. This can lead staff to develop mycotoxicosis (mould poisoning), asthma, respiratory infections, bronchitis, aches and pains, nosebleeds and headaches.
Good health and safety policies not only protect your workforce, but also protect the organisation from the cost of time, fines, litigation and the potential loss of reputation. But a policy alone is not enough. HR provides a crucial link between management and employees. While it must communicate the importance of health and safety to management from a legal, business case and employee perspective, it also must communicate the organisation’s commitment to its workforce and their health and safety. Further to overseeing health and safety policy and procedure, and ensuring staff adhere to these, HR also has an important role in ensuring that every person in the organisation from the top level down understands that occupational health and safety is everyone’s responsibility.
The best way to protect your organisation from workplace hazards is to be able to quickly identify them, manage them and implement the steps required to prevent them from causing harm to your staff and visitors. To control potential workplace hazards and reduce or even eliminate the risk, you should carry out regular workplace risk assessments and determine how your employees could be at risk. Once you have evaluated and identified the risks, you should then introduce appropriate measures to prevent them from affecting the health and safety of those who come into the workplace. You should record and review hazards at least once a year, or more often if anything changes.
Investing time and resources in health and safety is not only an important responsibility of running a business; it also makes good business sense. As an HR professional, it’s your role to ensure that the directors of the business understand that by paying closer attention to health and safety, they can look forward to increased employee productivity, improved public reputation, and even an increase in profits. Proper attention to health and safety not only protects a business: it can boost it too.
While everyone in the organisation has a responsibility for health and safety, it’s down to the HR function to be the driving force behind policies and procedures that ensure everyone can expect to work in a safe and healthy environment.
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