Occupational Health and Safety

Occupational Health and Safety


Occupational health and safety is one of the most important aspects of human concerns. Its primary objective is to ensure that the working environment is tailored to the needs of workers, promoting and maintaining their physical, mental, and social well-being across all occupations.

Definition of Terms

Occupational Health and Safety: This discipline is dedicated to preventing workers from contracting diseases or sustaining injuries as a result of their work. According to the World Health Organization (WHO, 1995), occupational safety and health encompass the following multidisciplinary activities:

  1. Protection and promotion of workers’ health by eliminating hazardous occupational factors and conditions that pose risks to their well-being and safety at work.
  2. Enhancement of workers’ physical, mental, and social well-being, supporting the development and maintenance of their working capacity, as well as their professional and social growth within their work environment.
  3. Development and promotion of sustainable work environments and organizations.

Occupational health is also defined as the overall well-being—physically, mentally, and socially—of individuals in relation to their work and working environment. 

It involves both the individual’s adjustment to work and the adaptation of work to the individual (Forsman, 1976). The WHO defines occupational health as the “promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental, and social well-being of workers in all occupations.” Furthermore, the WHO considers occupational health services responsible for the well-being of workers and, whenever possible, their families as well.

Other Terminology Used in Occupational Health and Safety

  1. Occupational Epidemiology: This field focuses on studying the occurrence of diseases in relation to work-related factors.
  2. Occupational Biostatistics: It serves as a vital tool for quantitatively studying morbidity and mortality in humans, particularly in relation to workplace exposure.
  3. Ergonomics: This discipline involves tailoring the job to fit the workers, encompassing the design of machines, tools, equipment, work layouts, methods, and environments. Its objective is to enhance human efficiency and well-being, thereby reducing industrial accidents and improving overall worker health and productivity. 
  4. Risk Assessment: The process of identifying and evaluating potential risks and hazards in the workplace to determine appropriate preventive measures. Example: Conducting a risk assessment to identify potential hazards associated with a chemical substance used in a laboratory.
  5. Hazard Control: Implementing measures to eliminate or minimize workplace hazards and reduce the risk of accidents or injuries. Example: Installing safety guards on machinery to prevent workers from coming into contact with moving parts.
  6. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Equipment worn by workers to protect themselves from potential workplace hazards. Example: Safety goggles, gloves, and helmets used to protect workers from eye injuries, hand injuries, or head injuries.
  7. Safety Training: Providing education and training to workers on occupational health and safety practices, procedures, and emergency protocols. Example: Conducting regular safety training sessions to ensure workers are aware of fire evacuation procedures and know how to respond in an emergency.
  8. Incident Investigation: The process of examining workplace incidents, accidents, or near-miss events to identify their causes and implement corrective measures to prevent future occurrences. Example: Investigating a workplace fall to determine whether it was caused by inadequate safety measures or improper equipment usage.
  9. Workplace Ergonomics: Designing and arranging workspaces, equipment, and tasks to fit the capabilities and limitations of the workers, promoting comfort, safety, and efficiency. Example: Adjusting the height and position of computer monitors to reduce neck strain and prevent musculoskeletal disorders.
  10. Occupational Health Surveillance: The systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of data related to workers’ health, work-related diseases, and exposure to occupational hazards. Example: Regular medical check-ups and monitoring of employees exposed to hazardous substances to detect early signs of occupational illnesses.
  11. Safety Culture: The shared values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors regarding workplace safety within an organization. Example: Encouraging open communication about safety concerns, recognizing and rewarding safe practices, and fostering a proactive approach to safety among employees.

Aims/Objectives of Occupational Safety and Health

  1. Promoting and maintaining the highest level of physical, mental, and social well-being for workers in all occupations. Example: Ensuring that workers have a safe and healthy work environment that contributes to their overall well-being.

  2. Preventing workers from being affected by harmful working conditions that can negatively impact their health. Example: Implementing measures to protect workers from exposure to hazardous substances or dangerous equipment.

  3. Protecting workers from work-related risks and hazards that may arise in their employment. Example: Establishing safety protocols and providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to minimize workplace accidents and injuries.

  4. Creating and maintaining an occupational environment that is tailored to meet workers’ physiological and psychological needs. Example: Adapting workstations to ergonomic standards to prevent musculoskeletal disorders and promote comfort.

  5. Ensuring that work is adjusted to suit individuals and that individuals are well-suited for their jobs. Example: Assigning tasks that match workers’ skills and capabilities, allowing them to perform their duties effectively and safely.

Principles of Occupational Health and Safety

  1. Protecting and promoting workers’ health by preventing and controlling occupational diseases and accidents and eliminating hazardous factors and conditions at work. Example: Implementing safety protocols and providing training to prevent accidents, as well as monitoring and addressing any potential occupational health hazards.

  2. Developing and promoting healthy and safe work environments and organizations by adapting working conditions to meet the needs of workers. Example: Modifying workplace layouts or processes to reduce physical strain and improve worker well-being.

  3. Enhancing workers’ physical, mental, and social well-being, supporting their professional and social development, and maintaining their capacity to work. Example: Offering health and wellness programs, promoting work-life balance, and providing opportunities for skill development and career growth.

  4. Enabling workers to lead productive lives and contribute to sustainable development. Example: Supporting initiatives that foster a healthy work-life balance, job satisfaction, and employee engagement, which ultimately benefits both individuals and the organization.

  5. Providing curative and rehabilitative services to address any health issues or injuries that may occur in the workplace. Example: Offering medical treatment, rehabilitation programs, and support for workers who experience work-related injuries or illnesses.

  6. Ensuring immediate response through first aid and emergency measures for victims. Example: Establishing protocols for first aid training and having emergency response systems in place to provide prompt medical assistance when accidents occur.

Components of Occupational Health and Safety in the Workplace

The discipline encompasses the following key components:

  1. Implementation of occupational health and safety regulations in the workplace.
  2. Establishment of an active and functional occupational health and safety committee in the workplace.
  3. Monitoring and controlling of workplace hazards that could impact health.
  4. Supervision and maintenance of hygiene and sanitary facilities to ensure worker health and welfare.
  5. Inspection of the health and safety standards of protective devices used in the workplace.
  6. Conducting pre-employment, periodical, and special health examinations for workers.
  7. Adapting work conditions to suit individuals’ needs.
  8. Provision of first aid services.
  9. Providing health education and safety training to workers.
  10. Reporting occupational deaths, diseases, injuries, disabilities, hazards, and their preventive measures in the workplace.

Elements of the Work

In an occupational setting such as a manufacturing plant, industry, or office, there are four fundamental elements that play a role:

  1. The Worker: This refers to the individual who performs the job or task, such as a healthcare worker. Example: A nurse providing care to patients in a hospital.

  2. The Tool: This represents the equipment or machine used by the worker to perform their job. Example: An injection syringe utilized by a healthcare professional to administer medications.

  3. The Process: This encompasses the series of steps or procedures followed by the worker to complete their job. Example: The specific steps involved in administering an intramuscular (IM) injection, including preparation and proper technique.

  4. The Work Environment: This refers to the physical location or situation in which the worker carries out their tasks. Example: A hospital or healthcare facility where a healthcare worker interacts with patients and colleagues.

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