A Safety Week November 21-25 feature-Measures in place to help cut accidents and illness at workplaces


26-November-2011

Workplace accidents are the end products of unsafe Maryona Tirant of the Development Bank of Seychelles (DBS) displaying a sign advising that the floor is slippery. Warning signs like this one should be yellow in colouracts and unsafe condition of the work. However, accidents are preventable, they do not just happen. They usually occur as a result of the combination of a number of factors, the three main ones being: technical equipment, the working environment, and the worker.

Accident-prevention is based on trying to find out the causes of accidents. As soon as one is aware of the causes of an accident, one can start to work on an accident prevention programme, which must formulate a strategy on how to eliminate or to control occupational hazards found. If the formulated strategy is not taken, the same type of accident will occur again and again. 

All accidents at workplaces are either directly or indirectly, attributable to human failings. People are not machines, their performance is not fully predictable and mistakes are made.

Therefore we will always recommend that an effective occupational management system is established based on international labour conventions on occupational health and safety (OSH) involving the responsibility at all levels and the need for better systems of safety and health organisation.

In Seychelles there are seven pieces of OHS laws that regulate health and safety in the workplace. These are enforced by the Labor Monitoring and Compliance Inspection Section of the Employment Department in the Ministry of Education, Employment and Human Resources.

These laws apply to all employees including those working for the government and the self employed person as well as all employers including the government. The main pieces of OHS laws are:

The Occupational Safety and Health Decree Chapter 151

This is main decree which states to whom the OHS laws apply, the duty of the employers, which is to ensure health and safety of all their employees and other persons who have access to the workplace, employees’ duty to cooperate with the employers in complying with the laws and to take all reasonable care not to endanger themselves and others who might be affected by the work being carried out. It also gives the minister responsible for employment the power to make any regulation as needed and to appoint officers to enforce the OHS laws. The officer appointed has the power to issue improvement notice if there an employer is contravening any provisions of the legislations and prohibition notice where there are any immediate threats to the health and safety of workers.

The Occupational Safety and Health (Construction Industry, Confined Space and Brian Bijoux and Michael Lesperance in a cold store at Oceana Fisheries wearing protection against severe cold conditions as required by lawWelding) Regulations 1991

These regulations apply for the purpose of protecting employees working in the construction industry, confined space and those working as welders in any work place. They make provision for the erection of solid scaffold, board, working platform, safety nets and belts, good housekeeping, safe site access, electrical safety, use of personal protective equipment (PPE), safe working in confined space which includes ship holds, tanks, manholes, cold storage and culverts and safe erection of temporary structure.

The Occupational Safety and Health (Miscellaneous) Regulations 1991

These apply to all premises except those that are covered under the Occupational Safety and Health (Construction Industry, Confined Space and Welding) Regulations 1991. They make provision for safe access and exits to and from a workplace, safe working in confined space and safe stairways and ladders.

The Occupational Safety and Health (Health and Welfare) Regulations 1991

These regulations apply to all workplaces. They make provisions for good housekeeping; overcrowding in work premises; reasonable comfort zone temperature in a workroom or other premises; effective drainage system for work process or activity that renders the working place wet; sanitary conveniences for all employees; washing facilities with clean running water, soap and towel; supply of drinking water in the workplace; sufficient lighting in the workplace; eating facilities; sitting facilities; accommodation of clothing (lockers and changing room); lifting of heavy load; maximum noise level to which employees can be exposed to; exposure to radiation; personal protective clothing; First Aid facilities; evacuation of the sick and seriously injured.

The Occupational Safety and Health (Amendment) Regulations 1999:

According to this amendment, an employer must ensure that any accident occurring at a workplace which results in the death of an employee or absence from work for three or more days sick leave, must be reported to the Employment Department within 48 hours of occurrence, on the prescribed form as stipulated under Section 32 (2) of this regulations.

The Occupational Safety and Health (Health and Welfare) (Amendment) Regulations 2003:

This amendment make provisions for erection of safety and warning signs in all workplaces to warn against hazards. The signs must be displayed in appropriate locations and the workers must be properly instructed as to the meaning and importance of these signs. Safety signs may have one of these four colours: red, blue, green and yellow and they mean:

RED SIGNS are prohibitive e.g. No smoking
BLUE SIGNS are mandatory e.g. wear gloves
GREEN SIGNS are informative e.g. Fire exit
YELLOW SIGNS are warning e.g. Slippery floor

Security officer Marina Lafortune showing a sign indicating where the exit is. The law requires such informative signs to be green in colour

The Occupational Safety and Health (Medical Examinations) Regulations 2003:-

 It makes provisions for medical examinations of persons employed in certain (hazardous) occupations including food handlers, medical practitioners, employees who handle and are exposed to different chemicals and employees who are exposed to excessive noise, dust and radiation.
They state the types of tests that are needed and the period in which the examinations must be done. The employer must bear the cost of examinations.

The Dock Work  and Occupational Safety and Health Officer’s Regulations and the Radiation Safety and Security Bill 2012 which are still under reviewed.
 
The Occupational Safety and Health legislation sets the national basic for the development and promotion of safety culture in government, private and public sectors. Under the current Occupational Health and Safety Decree chapter 151an occupational Safety Board for occupational health and safety matters is made up of employers, employee and government representatives, mirrors the principle that consultation, communication and cooperation among the interested parties are the prerequisites to successful development of a health and safety culture in the country.

This board also prescribes the framework necessary and setting up legal responsibilities with which the management hierarchy must comply. Annie Meme walking past a sign warning against smoking. Prohibitive signs are red in colour by law (photo by G.T.)

Occupational accidents and diseases

Accidents do not just happen, they are caused. In order to ascertain the causes of accidents, they must be appropriately investigated. The investigation must be conducted as soon as possible while all the scene of accident has not been tempered.

The investigation is to be done at enterprise level and by the health and safety officers or their representatives accompanied by inspectors from the Employment Department and any other interested parties. The main objectives being to establish the main causes of the accident so that recurrence can be prevented.

It should not be considered as an exercise of fault finding and apportioning of blame. Therefore, it is expected that everyone involved in this matter should cooperate whole heartedly so as to achieve the objective of the exercise.

Occupational accidents at the workplace

Employment injuries include both industrial and commuting accidents resulting to death or personal injury. Industrial accidents are those occurring at a place of work and commuting accidents are those occurring on the way to and from work.

Causes of accidents

Very rarely does an accident arise from a single cause – usually there’s a combination of factors. Accidents result from the combined effects of physical circumstances, which can often be recognised and hazards due to human factors - which can be influenced by training, instruction or supervision. Both physical and psychological factors must be considered together in recognising result from unsafe systems of work.

Hazardous situations – even if compounded by human factors – are not the cause of an accident but indicator of some other deficiency and the end product of an underlying malaise.

The main causes of accidents in workplaces that we usually encounter involve:

Falling and flying objects
Falling persons
Machines
Hand tools
Electricity, chemicals or fire
Vehicles in road accidents

Falling and flying objects

Commonly due to improperly stacked material or falls from elevated areas with inadequate protection. These types of accidents can be avoided to some extent by proper head protection.

Falling persons

Due to slippery floors, uneven floor surface, incorrect type of shoes worn, inadequate lighting, defective ladders, unsafe working platforms.

Machines

Faults or failure in machines, poor or no guarding of machines as the main cause of machines related injuries.

Hand tools

Improper handling and misuse, defective tools – which have not been properly maintained – are often responsible for occupational accidents.

Electricity, chemicals or fires

These are due to use of unsafe circuits in maintenance work, escape of chemical vapours, chemical spillage or risk of fire.

Road accidents

These are a major cause of fatal accidents in the country. Many factors are involved here for example overturning of lorries, vans and tractors – incidentally or due to lack of experience among drivers involved.
Increased industrialisation could also be explanatory to the increased number of road accidents.

Other causes

These include injuries due to objects, plant and machinery failures.
 
Radiation safety

The law requires employers to give an appropriate standard of protection and safety for humans without unduly limiting the benefits of the practice giving rise to the exposure to radiation.
It also wants them to prevent the occurrence of deterministic effects in individuals by ensuring doses are kept below the relevant threshold

Conclusion

Accidents do not just happen, they are caused by factors which are operating in that particular work environment, be they physical or otherwise. Occupational accident causation is a very complicated issue and many authorities have written various theories on occupational accidents. However human error has been found to be one of the main causes of accidents. These include unsafe behavior, omissions and unsafe conditions.

Employers should have a clearly written safety policy in their organizations indicating who is responsible for what, and who implements what. The employers must comply with safety and health laws and regulations. This requires a line-management approach. It is the responsibility of employers to provide a safe workplace that is free from hazards that are likely to cause injury or death to the workers. They must not only train their workers on how to produce more and do their jobs well but also to do their jobs safely. 

It also important for certain organisations to conduct pre-employment medical examinations to ascertain the condition of the workers. Since it is the employees and workers who actually do the jobs, it is equally important that they also understand their role in occupational accident prevention. They must cooperate with the employers to follow safe practices and procedures when working. Employees should always remind the employers of his obligation to ensure their safety and health at work.

Workers and employees must report all accidents that occur at their workplaces so that these can be investigated and their causes identifies for elimination. The formation of safety committee and safety representatives in workplaces is of vital importance as these liaise with employees and management. 

Employers should comply with international labour standards on occupational health and safety as it is important in preventing of occupational accident and work related disease as this helps in the establishment of norms for all industries concerning management of occupational health and safety standards at the workplace.

Contributed by the Employment Department

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