Safety commonly referred to as Occupational safety and health (OSH), Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), Occupational Health, or Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) is an area that concerns itself with the safety, health and welfare of people in the workplace. The main goal of workplace health and safety or OHS is to adopt safe and healthy working methods at the workplace to enable people to work and not worry about accidents and injuries. Not only does safety programs aid in protecting workers, it is also intended to protect co-workers, family members, employers, customers, and any body who might be affected by the workplace environment.
Importance of health and safety in the workplace (Ghana)
A friend once asked me, ‘Lawrencia, why are you so particular about this health and safety when you have a Law degree? She continued, “These things work well in the outside world, not here in Ghana where people seem to be satisfied with how things are”. To be honest, I didn’t know how to respond, I just smiled but at the same time his statement got me thinking.
You see, thinking that people are used to the current state of things does not necessary mean that they are happy with the way things are. I have decided to challenge the status quo, because I have identified that there are new and better ways safety can be managed for the wellbeing of Ghanaian workers.
Who can happily declare that, in their workplace, people constantly fall from height or slips and dislocate some part of their body, have chemical burns, poor ventilation, harassed by their boss or colleague from their place of work? Let’s be honest, No one.
However, we will all be excited to say things like, I enjoy working at e.g. Max International because our employer constantly keeps us up to date with safety standards, we are given safety training as and when needed, whenever hazards are identified, they find ways to either reduce or eliminate it to prevent future incidence, we are given the appropriate ergonomic tools to work (E.g, chairs that is suitable for our body size and weight, mouse/pad etc) and train on how to keep good postures. They as employees are trained to take an active part in keeping the workplace safe by complying with safety standards, rules and regulations. We even have a safety officer who over sees our overall health and safety, we have our eyes checked every 6 months etc.
So if you are a health and safety inspector and you walk into Max international and check their records, you are likely to see happy employees and low accident rate because the business and the workers thrive in a safe, healthy, respectful and caring environment and safe and healthy environment.
The company, Max international is likely to have more satisfied, productive workers who will produce higher quality products and services, will be willing to return to work more quickly after an injury or illness and feel loyal to the organization. The organization on the other hand retain their quality workers, and be able to establish positive community relations and of course increase productivity and profitability.
We have to realize that the cost of injury prevention is far lesser than the cost of an injury or loss to property. In Ghana, when you approach an organization with safety training proposal, the first thing to take into account is the cost instead of the long team benefits on both the employees and the organization.
A safe and healthy workplace attracts and retains quality employees. It’s an asset to a community, operates more efficiently and enjoys a healthy bottom line.
The importance of health and safety is to achieve the above positive benefits for both the organization and its workers. In the workplace, health and safety regulations are paramount to the well-being of the employees and the employer. Many hazards are present in today’s work environments, and it’s the employer’s job to keep their employees safe from these hazards. It’s a job that is so important that there are occupational safety standards and regulations set by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
If safety standards are not implemented, one injury can mean financial disaster. Costs to a business include but not limited to, Production losses salaries paid for work not done, increase workers compensation, damage to equipment/machinery, constantly having to hire and train new staff, high turnover, decline in worker morale, and wages paid for work not done. We are experiencing most of this hazards every day in our organizations in Ghana and yet turn a blind eye on it. How then can we progress as a nation?
Health and safety procedures is paramount in the sense that, it helps to reduce illness and injuries massively. It assist both employers and employees to understand and be able to identify potential hazards at their various work environment. Training is vital and effective, as it aids to educate and create awareness for employees on proper workplace procedures, practices, and behavior to prevent possible injuries and illness or contamination from improper hygiene.
Potential hazards are rampant in almost every workplace environment. Equipment, chemicals, certain behaviors and activities, and even furniture can potentially cause injury or harm to workers. Health hazards can range from contamination of food due to unsafe handling or preparation practices to an infectious disease outbreak caused by improper hygiene and personal care.
Farmers e.g. who work with certain dangerous chemicals or gases, always face the risk of improper handling, maintenance, or storage, which mostly exposes them to dangerous danger. In these cases, they need to be trained in order to be able to identify what is refer to as Material Safety Data sheet (MSDS) which accompany all chemicals, train hazards identification, simple first Aid procedures and how to follow specific hazardous material handling guidelines set by OSHA.
In Ghana article 24 of 1992 constitution states that, we are all entitled to work in a safe and healthy environment, how then can we achieve this if we do not have Laws that sets clear standards and procedures that will enable the Ghanaian worker benefit from article 24?
Like I always say, being Proactive is better than Reactive.
I am Lawrencia Azumah Abugre (The Safety Lady) I am the voice for the voiceless of workers safety in Ghana.