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Safety in the workplace

in your interestA formidable question that looms clearly in the mind of every employee today is likely to be centred on the safety of the workplace. The spate of violence that is known to have taken place at worksites is now more than troubling.

The thought may even be entertained that the level of acts of violence that result in the injury to persons and the loss of human life is now unprecedented.

Guns have now become the weapon of choice to be used to main, disfigure and destroy. It is uncertain as to why there is the increase in the level of gun violence. It has been a long accepted practice for criminals who invade workplaces to rob, or steal, to use guns in the execution of their acts.

While this has not changed, what is significant is the intention on the part of the criminals to discharge the weapon, if and when they are impeded in the execution of their act.

In the past, and it remains the same today, employers had to concern themselves with providing a safe place of work. In most jurisdictions, the law as it applies to health and safety at the workplace, imposes on the employer the duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees at work. Inherent in this would be that of ensuring also the safety of their customers and clients.

It requires them to establish safety policies, systems, practices and procedures, which are intended to minimize any possible risks and hazards to the safety of both the internal and external customers. The employment of security personnel, instituting the practice of security checks, addressing the issue of lighting and the installation of security cameras are but some of the basic measures which are now employed. Despite all of this, there remains a level of uncomfortableness amongst people, as it would seem that these systems and practices are often breached.

The workplace is now a minefield. There is reason for persons to become suspicious of the actions of others. The several reports carried on networks across the globe and particularly so in the United States, where employees are reported and alleged to have returned to the workplace and commit an act of terror on colleagues. This seems almost commonplace.

According to the United States Bureau of Labour Statistics, there were 4,679 fatal workplace injuries in 2014. Of that number 307 reported deaths or 6.5 per cent were as a direct result of intentional shootings.

The denouncing of such acts will not deter those who are intended to perpetrate acts of violence from doing so. Excuses may be made for the psychological behaviour of some individuals, but there can be none for those who emerge from terrorists’ cells, with the aim of destroying human life in the name of a religious or some other fundamentalist cause.

What the world can do about all this wave of violence that tends to destabilize the workplace and undermine productivity remains the big unanswered question. It would be a regrettable if the workplace were to take on the face of a prison or a military camp. There should be a no-tolerance policy as it relates to the bringing of weapons into the workplace. As enforced in the case of drugs and alcohol, applying it to weapons should not prove to be a problem.

If there is any downside to curbing the infiltration of weapons into the workplace, this lies within the realm of enforcement and security lapses that may be attributed to complacency.

The raging debate of the gun policy in the United States has a long history. Those who continue to focus on the right to bear arms are definitely missing the boat. The discussion must now focus on how to reduce the sale of guns, and how to protect the society, including the workplace, against the indiscriminate use of firearms by those who own them.

It is for authorities in small societies to take cognizance of the gun violence that is ranging in large societies, and to develop a plan of action to reduce and better yet eliminate the emerging threat that is appearing on their own doorsteps.

(Dennis De Peiza is labour management consultant to Regional Management Services Inc.

Visit the website www.regionalmanagement

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