Major disasters in work environments aren’t unheard of in our part of the world. Buildings have collapsed, ferries have sunk and umpteenth fires have all made horrid headlines at some point. Is it bad luck, negligence or purely an act of God that such disasters keep recurring?
It has long been recognised that workplaces are fraught with all sorts of risks to health. In fact, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the WHO have shared a common definition of occupational health since 1950. And in 1998, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) created guidelines on Environment, Health and Safety with regulatory codes that promote the health of employees in organisations and corporates.
Governing authorities must have health and safety legal codes that serve to reduce work-related injuries, ill health and death. All countries must have enforceable health and safety measures in all work environments. Employers must be aware of the legal obligations of ensuring the health of their employees, and visitors who frequent their premises. Corporations can and must do several things to promote healthy workplaces, and limit risk.
Each company must have health and safety policies in place, accessible and understood by all employees. A budget for training and safety information in the workplace should be set aside and administered by an appointed health and safety officer. Enacting and promoting safety systems and safety culture is enshrined in Good Industrial Practices Codes. Employees must have appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), First Aid skills and health insurance.
Risks to health and safety in the workplace cannot be completely eliminated. Each industry must continuously monitor ongoing and emerging risks and maintain a reporting system that mitigates potential calamities. And every so often, a review of the health and safety performance of each corporate is needed to assess potential areas of improvement to make the work environment even safer.
Unforeseen emergencies will still happen despite all reasonable health and safety measures. We must have a system that ensures a coordinated and appropriate response to major disasters.
Any haphazard response by the police, ambulance services, fire department and other emergency rescue teams is a recipe for chaos and more casualties.
Healthy populations, with guaranteed safety in work environments, tend to be more productive. Corporations that are driven by greed and profits, with little attention to health and safety, eventually become casualties of their own short-sightedness.
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Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynaecologist and Fertility Specialist