What is meant by safety & health in the workplace?

When most people refer to health and safety efforts in the workplace, they primarily target eliminating workplace hazards to keep people safe from harm. However, the World Health Organization directly states that, "Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." This infers that hazard safety can be thoroughly enforced by employers and outside government organizations all day long, but without paying any consideration to overall employee health, those employees can still suffer physically, socially, or mentally.

With the WHO's addition of “health” in the definition of creating a safe and healthy workplace for all employees, there may be a handful of other unhealthy conditions that employees may run into. The following is a small sample of what could be seen:

  • Mental illness such as depression or anxiety stemming from high stakes and stressful environments.
  • Physical strain or injury from a lack of ergonomic conditions.
  • Chemical, mechanical, or electrical hazards that may cause death, permanent injury, or trauma.

While keeping the definition of safety and health at the forefront of our minds, there are an additional four main aspects of maintaining a healthy and safe workplace. These include:

  • Continually working to maintain and promote the well-being of employees, whether that be physically, mentally, or socially.
  • Preventing poor working conditions that lead to an increase in worker absence.
  • Protecting workers from risks in the workplace that can lead to negative health effects.
  • Regular assessment of the occupational environment to look for improvements involving any physical and phycological needs or capabilities.

Providing an environment that meets the needs of all employees is critical, but sometimes the goal of getting to those ideal conditions is unclear for the employer. Start with the basics. As always, begin with gathering information and from there form a plan that involves achieving those goals one by one. Knowing what is needed from the get-go is always preferable no matter the environment. It allows for more concrete decision-making as well as clarity. A good place to start with the plan involves:

  • Training plans for both employees on the work floor and for employers on how to recognize health and safety-related problems.
  • Compliance with all health and safety related regulations such as fire prevention programs, emergency action plans, having the right PPE, following the hazard communication standard, etc.
  • The regular performance of risk assessments to constantly aim for improved working conditions.
  • Implementing a visual communication standard for the business. This assists employees in a way that allows them to protect themselves from danger through the use of visual reminders.

These are only a handful of examples that can help a workplace achieve maximum safety and health-related goals for their employees. Overall, if keeping the well-being of employees is at the forefront of the business’ priorities, then they will be able to create a workplace that has a high productivity rate and has employees that are happy to work there.


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