Safe systems of work

The term safe work denotes work that is risk free and not injurious to the individual’s health and safety. For every worker this is ideal. From an employer’s perspective, it should be seen as an irrefutable responsibility. Employers are expected to develop safe systems of work.

It requires that they first recognise risks and potential hazards, and then move to put systems in place for the purpose of ensuring the safety of workers.

In identifying safe methods of work, the employer should undertake to define the work to be done, potential risks and hazards, and ways to make the workplace safe. For those who are unaware, the experts advise that there are five steps to establishing safe systems of work.

These are; assessing the task, identifying the hazards, defining safe methods, implementing the systems and monitoring the systems.

This is the standard for employers to follow, but what is often put into practice is seemingly far removed from the expected. Some employers may be reasonably accused of doing the minimum for the purpose of satisfying themselves that they have completed their obligation to their employees.

It is the unnecessary risks that employers expose their employees to, which create cause for concern and bring the issue of safe work into question.

In removing the myth that the discussion on safe work applies in the main to the manufacturing or industrial sector, let’s take for example the case of a young female worker who is employed as a waitress at a restaurant in Bridgetown.

On reporting for work, the employer sends the employee off to the bank to deposit the takings of the previous day. This individual without question does as she is told. She is fully aware that this is not within her job description, but is conscious of the fact that to question the directive of the employer could well mean that she could find herself on the breadline.

Some may question where the issue of safe work comes in. In searching for an answer, the basic question that is to be answered: Is this fair to the employee? Can the safety of the employee be ignored? What protection was she given?

What recourse does the employee have if she suffered an injury or mishap while carrying out the instruction of the employer in executing a task that does not form a part of her job description? Would it be fair for the employer to hold the employee responsible should the deposit prove to be short by $100?

In this instance, there are a number of risks factors that combined to make this job an unsafe and precarious one. By the way, the security guard who is being forced to work well in excess of the 40 hour work week is also a victim of unsafe work.

How can any employer expect that a tired and overworked security guard can be either vigilant or productive? This person is being sacrificed, for he/she is at risk of falling asleep on the job, and becoming an easy victim in more ways than one. At the personal level, the stress and strain that results could certainly impact on the individual’s health, both in the short and long term.

Both employers and employees are to be reminded that safe work is about establishing safe work place systems and observing safe workplace practices. Following on this, safe work is not to be seen as a luxury, but as means towards offering worker protection, building employee confidence and stimulating productivity.

* Dennis de Peiza is a Labour Management Consultant

Regional Management Services Inc.

Visit our Website: www.regionalmanagementservicesinc

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