It has been an established fact over the time that organizations cannot survive without valuing their employees (Kandula, 2006). Workers’ safety and health is a subject of prime concern for organizations today. Labor unions across the world have grown stronger and are aware of their rights. They are not ready to compromise on their safety and health any more. There are more numbers of rigorous labor legislation in place to ensure workers’ well-being. Ensuring employees’ welfare is in vogue as a means of portraying the organization to be highly socially responsible. Also firms have realized the significance of human factor in the workplace.
Failure of safety and health initiatives
In spite of the joint initiatives of the governments, employers and workers’ associations across the globe, the toll of workplace accidents and injuries is on a rise. A recent report by International Labor Organization (ILO) claimed that there are as many as 321,000 accidents at workplace every year (ILO, 2013). According to the report there are around 2.34 million occupational fatalities every year across the world. Out of which 321,000 are accidents and remaining 2.02 million workers die of other occupation-related causes. These estimates of ILO are alarming. It also means that in every 15 seconds a worker dies due to work-related accident or disease. The figure in itself reveals the need for urgent attention to the situation by Governments as well as the corporate houses.
Industrial revolution and workplace safety
The concept of ‘Occupational Health and Safety’ has its roots in the 16th century Europe (Meswani, 2008). Workplace hazards came into limelight during the industrial revolution of 1700’s. Industrial Revolution truly proved to be a mixed blessing for the world. On one hand it added significantly to the production output but on the other hand, it posed serious challenges to workers’ safety and health. Sophisticated production machines which came into being after industrial revolution changed the traditional patterns of manual production. Therefore it demanded extensive training for the workers (The Social Studies Help Center, 2013). Workers in the production units must be trained to operate newly introduced machineries and systems. But unfortunately even today training is a much neglected management function in every industry. It poses serious challenges to occupational safety and health.
Usually when one thinks of workplace safety, the immediate risk that comes to mind is of accidents while operating machinery in the factory. But, there are a number of risks or dangers to which the employees are often exposed. These include:
- Natural hazards.
- Physical agents.
- Workplace politics.
- Job insecurity.
- Sexual harassment.
- Workplace violence.
- Occupational and other diseases (FICCI, 2012).
Workplace safety and health and management
Occupational safety and health has a bearing on human resource productivity and retention. Maslow had recognized and highlighted the human need for safety long back. He described it through the ‘Maslow’s need hierarchy.’ Workplace safety affects employees’ productivity and quality of work. In addition workplace safety also improves employees’ morale and retention in the organization. Better workplace safety means reduced employee turnover (Meswani, 2008).
In my next articles I will discuss each of the workplace dangers in detail along with the initiatives that have been taken to control them.
- ILO. (April 26, 2013). “The World Day for Safety and Health at Work in 2013 focuses on the prevention of occupational diseases.” International Labor Organization. Retrieved from: http://www.ilo.org/safework/events/meetings/WCMS_204594/lang–en/index.htm.
- FICCI. (2012). Indian Risk Survey 2012. Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations (India) Private Limited.
- Kandula, S. (2006). Strategic Human Resource Development. New Delhi: Prentice-Hall of India Private Limited.
- Meswani, H. (April 2008). Safety and Occupational Health: Challenges and Opportunities in Emerging Economies. Indian Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, 12(1). Pp. 3–9.
- The Social Studies Help Center. “What was the effect of the industrial revolution on factory workers?” Retrieved from: http://www.socialstudieshelp.com/USRA__Workers_Lives.htm.