Safety in the workplace concerns the working environment in the enterprise and encompasses all factors that affect safety, health and well-being of employees. This may include unsafe working conditions or processes, environmental hazards, workplace violence, drug and alcohol abuse. These factors effectively increase the risk of an accident at work, which can be associated with serious consequences.
Occupational safety at the national level is overseen by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) monitor workplace safety at the national level. OSHA was established to ensure healthy and safe working conditions for working women and men by setting and enforcing standards and by providing outreach, training, education and assistance.
This organization has three specific purposes, which form the basis of the rules and regulations that she established.
- Ameliorate the safety and health for all employees, as evidenced by fewer hazards, less exposure and less illness, injury and fatalities.
- Change workplace culture in order to increase employers' and employees' awareness of safety and increase their involvement.
- Ensure public trust through excellence in the delivery and development of OSHA's services and programs (J. Barling, 2004).
"The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 defines occupational safety and health standard as, “a standard which requires conditions, or the adoption or use of one or more practices, means, methods, operations, or processes, reasonably necessary or appropriate to provide safe or healthful employment and places of employment”" (A. ElSafty, 2012).
National workplace injury and illness data
Each year the Department of Labor, by means of Bureau of Labor Statistics, presents the workplace injury and illness data. In 2004, 5,764 people experienced fatal accidents at work in the United States.
These fatalities were caused mainly by traffic-related incidents (45 percent), followed by assaults and violent acts (18 percent), falls (15 percent), contact with objects and equipment (14 percent), and finally, exposure to harmful substances (J. Barling, 2004.).
Safety versus productivity
During several years of research conducted by Mark Pagell, Anthony Veltri, David Johnston, it was found that many managers believe accidents are a cost of doing business. In other words, managers say the only way to get the job done is to expose employees to danger. During the study the following statement was made:
"We do make efforts to get our personnel to follow the formally laid down [safety] procedures, but a lot of the times, because of the constraints within our operation and the facility reaching its capacity, sometimes you’ve got to bend those rules … to get the job done" (M. Paggel, 2016).
The company is aware of this situation and accepts it. This means that companies bend the security rules to maintain high levels of productivity. However, process improvements implemented without compliance with OSH rules often results in harm caused to workers and the company.
The basis for security must be culture that underlines security as a key value of the organization. Managers, executives, and workers should focus on planning, monitoring, and boosting processes to ensure safety and productivity (M. Paggel, 2016).
- Barling J., (2004), The Psychology of Workplace Safety Copyright American Psychological Association
- ElSafty A., (2012), Construction Safety and Occupational Health Education in Egypt, the EU, and US Firms Open Journal of Civil Engineering
- Johnson M. J., (2016), Regulation by Shaming: Deterrence Effects of Publicizing Violations of Workplace Safety and Health Laws Duke University, Sanford School of Public Policy
- Paggel M., (2016), Getting Workplace Safety Right Sloan Management Review
- United States Departmane of Labour, (2019), Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Author: Paulina Byrska