Work injuries and disease are caused by the work environment.
Change the work environment so that it is healthy and safe.
Work is dangerous to your health. It always has been. It always will be, as long as humans have to operate the processes of production. Effects range from backache, headache and boredom at one end of the scale, to physical or mental illness and death at the other. A workplace can contain a number of hazards for the unsuspecting employee.
Firstly, there are the more obvious unsafe working conditions:
Then there are the hidden hazards, which fall into a number of categories:
In developed countries it is recognised that, on average, one employee in ten suffers from an industrial incident each year forcing him/her to stop work.
Whatever figures are reported, they represent only a fraction of the real situation, owing to the fact that many incidents go unreported and many industrial diseases go unrecognised.
The amount of working time lost due to occupational injury is about 40 times that lost due to industrial disputes in Australia.
There is no basis to any argument that views disease, disablement and death as the tragic but inevitable costs of production.
It is clear that employees and the SDA have a vital role to play in ensuring that employers understand their obligations so that employees have a safe and healthy working environment.
SDA Approach to Health and Safety
A preventive Occupational Health and Safety strategy must be based on the following principles:
Health and Safety Representatives
Union-elected Health and Safety Representatives are fundamental to the achievement and maintenance of the right of retail workers to a safe and healthy workplace.
Health and Safety Representatives should be accountable to the membership through normal trade union channels. To facilitate this process, Health and Safety Representatives should be Union members elected by Union members and operate as part and parcel of the Union ¹s normal shop floor organisation.
In order to enable Representatives to effectively represent their members and carry out their functions, it is vital that the highest priority be given to education and training courses for such Representatives. In the first instance, all such courses should:
It is also necessary that on-going training be provided to assist Health and Safety Representatives in maintaining an awareness of current Occupational Health and Safety issues.
In order to perform their role effectively, Health and Safety Representatives have rights and responsibilities as set out below. These rights include:
The Health and Safety Representative has a responsibility to keep the SDA advised of all relevant matters and act in consultation with SDA Officials where it is reasonable to do so.
Health and Safety Committees
Health and Safety Committees should be set up according to the following criteria:
Uniform and enforceable Work Health and Safety standards are a central means of preventing occurrences.
Standards should be developed by governments in consultation with the SDA in the form of enforceable Regulations.
Governments must apply sufficient resources in the areas of inspection and prosecution to ensure that these Regulations are adhered to.
Education and Training
All employees should receive appropriate training in Health and Safety. In particular, training must also be provided to managers and supervisors in the workplace.
The SDA believes that paid training leave should be provided by the employer forWork Health and Safety training.
Many retail companies have traditionally paid insufficient attention to Occupational Health and Safety matters due to a preoccupation with sales, profits, and a belief that work organisation is a management prerogative.
Occupational Health and Safety cannot be seen in such narrow terms.
Management has a duty and responsibility to develop comprehensive programs to maintain safe systems of work and a healthy working environment, in conjunction and by agreement with the SDA.
Principles of Hazard Management
Hazard management is the term applied to the systematic approach used to determine what is dangerous in the workplace, why it is dangerous and how to fix or control it.
A hazard management approach is applied in the development of national standards, Codes of Practice and guidance notes. It is this approach that should be applied to all health and safety issues.
There are two basic types of hazards:
Monitor And Review
It is important to understand these principles to be able to apply current health and safety Regulations and Codes of Practice.
Hazard identification is the process of identifying all the risks in the workplace together with the sources of those risks – the hazards. It involves the systematic investigation of all potential risks and identifying and recording the hazards which are causing them. A hazard refers to anything that has the potential to harm life, health and property.
Hazards may arise from:
Hazards also come in many forms including:
There are many ways of identifying hazards:
How to Look at Your Workplace
The role of the Health and Safety Representative and Committee member is to identify problems and raise them with their employer.
It is the employer’s responsibility to fix these problems.
It is important that all risks to workers’ health and safety be:
You don’t have to be an expert to inspect your workplace for hazards.
The people best qualified to identify dangerous situations are the ones who have to face them every day - the workers on the shop floor.
With a few basic skills, anyone can learn to spot dangers and track down hidden hazards.
1. General Inspections
Regular walk-around inspections should be conducted in the workplace in order to:
A checklist should be used when conducting the inspection and notes should be made on any items requiring attention of management. An example of a general checklist is contained in Appendix C of the manual.
2. Accident Inspections/Investigations
Health and Safety Representatives and Committee members should be informed by management whenever an incident or near miss occurs. They should also have the opportunity to inspect the site of the incident or near miss.
The Health and Safety Representative/Committee member should conduct a thorough examination of the causes of the incident or near miss.
Employers will often try to blame a worker for carelessness rather than focusing attention on unsafe systems of work.
Every accident investigation should be followed up by discussions with management with the aim of making changes to ensure that such an incident does not occur again.
Most State legislation now gives Occupational Health and Safety Representatives certain minimum legal rights of inspection and investigation.
The main facts required for a thorough investigation are:
3. Special Inspection
This might be an investigation of a complaint brought by a member, an investigation sparked by a hazard alert, or an investigation decided upon by the Health and Safety Committee.
Routine Hazard Information
Regular information updates can alert Representatives and Committees to new or previously unrecognised hazards. The SDA ¹s journal regularly includes information on current health and safety issues.
Standards and Codes
These consist of practical advice on issues and include preventative strategies to assist with hazard control.
They are a baseline for comparison and a check for organisations to see if they conform to relevant Acts and Regulations and meet the duty of care.
The best resource for identifying hazards is often the employees themselves.
The workforce can be surveyed with a simple written questionnaire or interviewed individually.
Questions may relate to hazards or specific health problems.
MSDS: Material Safety Data Sheet
Material Safety Data Sheets are a vital source of information for identifying chemical hazards. They provide information on the composition of a material, the safety and health hazards, and the control measures required. They should be consulted before materials are purchased and used on site. It is not necessary to be an expert to make effective use of an MSDS.
A sample MSDS is provided at Appendix B of the Manual.
After an inspection an OHS Representative or Committee member may have a number of hazards or potential hazards on their list. These problems must be reported and dealt with.
If there is more than one hazard on the list, it is useful to number the hazards in priority order.
In deciding priorities, ask yourself:
Inform the management of your priority list.
All the problems you find can be solved. Some solutions are better than others. Check any solution proposed by management to see if it is the best solution available. Talk to the employees concerned to check that the proposed solution is suitable.
Once identified, a hazard must be assessed to gain an understanding of the potential severity or risk.
Risk refers to the probability of a person succumbing to danger. The process of risk assessment involves looking at the hazard as well as the likelihood of people being exposed to it.
When workers are exposed to a certain hazard they absorb a certain dose which has a certain effect.
If a connection can be established between dose and effect, there is a strong argument that the hazard causes the effect and therefore needs to be controlled.
The risk needs to be evaluated and the most appropriate type and level of control determined.
Risk assessment involves making a judgement and evaluating what is deemed to be an acceptable level of risk.
A risk assessment should include the following factors:
A hazard assessment often requires assistance from an expert and usually involves:
The occupational specialists often used at this stage are:
Research may require the use of standard reference works (e.g. Material Safety Data Sheets for chemicals),an investigation of reports from similar studies and a comparison with recommended limits for exposure.
Once the hazard is identified and the risk assessed, appropriate measures need to be selected for controlling hazards in the workplace.
Risk control is taking action to eliminate or minimise risks that have been identified in the workplace.
This can be achieved by applying the hierarchy of hazard control . They are listed in order from most preferred to least preferred control measure and can be used separately or in combination.
There are often many different solutions to particular problems.
When selecting a control measure the aim should be to choose one as close to the top of the hierarchy as possible because the further down the hierarchy you go, the less effective the control measures are.
This is because the measures at the top of the hierarchy are actually dealing with the hazard itself, while the measures lower down are more concerned with trying to change worker behaviour or getting the worker to adapt to the hazard, rather than fixing the hazard at the source.
Hierarchy of Hazard Control
General Problems with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
All forms of PPE have a common drawback – the hazard still exists. Therefore, any failure of personal protection would lead to the worker being exposed to the hazard. It also has the following disadvantages:
The appropriate control measures must ensure that:
Monitor For Effectiveness
Once a measure for controlling or reducing a hazard has been selected and implemented, it is important to monitor its effectiveness to ensure that the expected result is achieved and maintained.
Record Risk Control Decisions
All risk control decisions for each hazard assessed should be documented.
The SDA has produced a comprehensive Manual on workplace health and safety. Copies of that manual are available from the SDA (free to members and a nominal charge to non-members).
That manual deals in detail with the major hazards in SDA workplaces such as:
Copies of SDA Bulletins on any of these issues are available from the SDA.