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Occupational safety and health

From Academic Kids

Occupational safety and health is the discipline concerned with preserving and protecting human and facility resources in the workplace.

Standards of occupational safety and health (OSH) are normally set in legislation; Governments have long realised that poor occupational safety and health performance results in cost to the State (e.g. through social security payments to the incapacitated, medical costs for treatment, but also through the loss of the "employability" of the worker).

In the European Union, Member States have enforcing authorities to ensure that the basic legal requirements relating to occupational safety and health are met. In many EU countries, there is strong cooperation between employer and worker organisations (e.g. Unions) to ensure good OSH performance as it is recognized this has benefits for both worker (maintenance of health) and enterprise (improved productivity and quality).

In the USA, OSHA has been regulating ocupational safety and health since the 1970s.

Occupational safety and health interacts strongly with other disciplines, such as ergonomics, toxicology, and psychology.

Contents

Hazards, risks, outcomes

The terminology used in OSH varies between states, but generally speaking:

  • A hazard is something that can cause harm
  • A risk is the probability of the hazard causing harm
  • The outcome is the result of when the hazard causes harm

For example, repetitively carrying out manual handling of heavy objects is a hazard (it can cause harm). The risk can either be expressed mathematically, (0.5 = a 50/50 chance) or just as "high/medium/low". The outcome would be a musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)

Risk assessment

Modern occupational safety and health legislation usually demands that a risk assessment be carried out prior to making an intervention. This assessment should:

  • Identify the hazards
  • Identify all affected by the hazard and how
  • Evaluate the risk
  • Identify and prioritise the required actions

The assessment should be recorded and reviewed periodically and whenever there is a significant change to work practices.

Common workplace hazard groups

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