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Occupational safety and health
Occupational safety and health is the discipline concerned with preserving and protecting human and facility resources in the workplace.
Standards of occupational safety and health (OSH) are normally set in legislation; Governments have long realised that poor occupational safety and health performance results in cost to the State (e.g. through social security payments to the incapacitated, medical costs for treatment, but also through the loss of the "employability " of the worker).
In the European Union, Member States have enforcing authorities to ensure that the basic legal requirements relating to occupational safety and health are met. In many EU countries, there is strong cooperation between employer and worker organisations (e.g. Unions) to ensure good OSH performance as it is recognized this has benefits for both worker (maintenance of health) and enterprise (improved productivity and quality).
Hazards, risks, outcomes
The terminology used in OSH varies between states, but generally speaking:
- A hazard is something that can cause harm
- A risk is the probability of the hazard causing harm
- The outcome is the result of when the hazard causes harm
For example, repetitively carrying out manual handling of heavy objects is a hazard (it can cause harm). The risk can either be expressed mathematically, (0.5 = a 50/50 chance) or just as "high/medium/low". The outcome would be a musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)
Modern occupational safety and health legislation usually demands that a risk assessment be carried out prior to making an intervention. This assessment should:
- Identify the hazards
- Identify all affected by the hazard and how
- Evaluate the risk
- Identify and prioritise the required actions
The assessment should be recorded and reviewed periodically and whenever there is a significant change to work practices.
Common workplace hazard groups
- Biological agents
- Chemical agents
- Physical agents , including
- Physical hazards
- Workplace transport
- Dangerous machinery
- Work related stress causal factors
- Occupational safety and Health Administration (USA) OSHA
- European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU)
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (Canada): CCOHS
- Public forum for the emerging health & safety standard, OHSAS 18001
- Prevention of work-related musculoskeletal disorders in construction laborers in PDF format.
- International Occupational Safety and Health Information Centre
- Workplace Safety & Health Information
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