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WEEK 13 : Employee Safeties and Health

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Students who successfully complete this topic will be able to: ➢ Explain what is the Health and safety program.
➢ Discuss the guidelines for developing health and safety program. ➢ Analyse the importance of understanding the provisions of employee Health and safety.

An effective safety and health management system is the key to reducing the number and severity of workplace injuries and illnesses, resulting in lower accident-related costs. In this course, you will learn to effectively implement a company’s safety and health management system and the four core elements of an effective safety and health system and the central issues critical to each element’s proper management. Health and safety is a highly regulated area and should be a priority for the board. Putting employees, customers and others at risk by not following the rules can amount to a criminal offence, with the potential for substantial (possibly multi-million pound) fines for the company, and fines and/or imprisonment for individual directors and employees.

The approach to health and safety must be rigorous. It’s important that both internal and external risks are identified and actively managed. This will mean working with contractors and suppliers to eliminate bad practice: weak links in the supply chain leave you vulnerable and increase your risk of prosecution. Significant changes to the framework of health and safety legislation have been made in the past few years, increasing further the challenges faced by companies and their directors.

A company’s duties

Every company has a general duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees, customers, contractors and anyone else who may be affected by its activities. But there’s an important qualification to this duty: it applies only ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’. The law is interested only in material risks to health and safety that any reasonable person would appreciate and take steps to guard against. Fanciful or hypothetical risks can be ignored. (See: R v Chargot Limited, below.)

This limitation on the general duty to guard against material risk – ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’ – allows a business to weigh a particular risk against the cost of preventative action in terms of time, money and effort. If that cost would be grossly disproportionate to the reduction in risk achieved, a decision not to take the action will be justified, and there will be no breach of the general duty.

It’s important to emphasise that, although prosecutions are frequently brought as a result of an accident in which someone has been hurt, a company can be liable where no personal injury has occurred. All the prosecution need prove is that a state of affairs existed that posed a real risk to the health or safety of employees or others. It is the risk of harm that is key, not that actual harm has been caused.

As well as this general duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees and others, there are other more specific duties that will apply to many businesses, depending on the particular hazards and risks associated with each. These more detailed regulations often impose absolute obligations to put a specific safety measure in place or to avoid a particular hazard. In contrast with the general duty described above, doing everything reasonably practical to comply may not be sufficient.

In addition, every employer is required to implement a management system for identifying and managing risks. In practice, that means ensuring that:
• risk assessments are made;
• employers have access to competent health and safety advice;
• employees are provided with relevant information and training;
• risks specific to certain employees – for example, new and expectant mothers or the young are assessed separately.