What is meant by workplace and workplace safety?

A workplace can be referred to as a space where people work together for the accomplishment of a common goal of the organization. Here, people can be a worker, an employee, and an employer. A person can be said to be an employer if he/she gets the job of organizational goal accomplishment through other persons, and that person gets paid for his/her service. All employees can also be referred to as workers. An employer may also hire workers of other categories which require specialized skills to finish a work. Both employees and workers along with the employer form the primary occupants of a workplace.

Workplaces involving manufacturing units, construction units, and chemical laboratories especially possess the highest risk of potential life-threatening hazards for workers and other individuals who are involved with that organization. In such a case, proper and adequate safety measures must be taken by the organization, which involves imposing safety rules and safety procedures to ensure the full safety of the people in terms of health and longevity.

Example of workplace

A workplace may be big or small depending on the nature of the organizational goal. For example, a workplace intended for educational purposes consists of employees and workers who are mainly educators and assistants, while the employer may be referred to as the head of the institution, in such a scenario, the workplace can be classified as a small workplace. Organizations committed to the manufacturing and engineering domain, like the automobile and aerospace industries, usually forms a part of a big or large workplace. The workplace of such organizations primarily comprises several employers with numerous employees and workers. All of them passionately thrive in organizational goal accomplishment. But, whether a workplace is small or big, safety is a major concern for every individual working in that common space. The knowledge and practice of workplace safety are essential for a safe working environment that protects all individuals including workers, employees, and employers from hazardous and unsafe work environments. The practice of workplace safety ensures occupational safety to the workers.

The outbreak of the present Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to the up-gradation of many workplaces in terms of safety issues and various safety-related practices. It's due to the COVID-19 post-pandemic, that individuals came to know about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits, which also form major equipment in different workplaces.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) worn by medical staff during COVID-19 pandemic
CC BY-SA 4.0 | Image Credits: https://commons.wikimedia.org | Iflaq

Need of workplace safety

The level of risk and potential hazards for a worker or an employee or even an employer cannot be measured, it might lead to serious consequences leading to health issues and loss of lives. An accident cannot be predicted but it can be prevented if a safe work environment is established along with incorporating safety culture into the workplace. Health risks and occupational safety is associated with every workplace and for every worker. Workplace violence, resource abuse, occupational injuries, work-related hazards, work-related injuries, and workplace accidents leading to injuries are some of the key factors which affect the safety of the workplace. Following safety procedures and safety protocols, ensures every worker including employees and employers heads home safely and return-to-work with a healthy state of mind and body.

Occupational hazards

There are multiple resources and factors in the workplace which are on-the-job critically hazardous for the workers. A few of them are outlined below:

Physical hazard

These are basically environmental hazards, which lead to risk due to physical contact with the worker. Some of the hazards under this category include ergonomic hazards, vibration hazards, noise hazards, heat, and cold strokes. Changes in the engineering and technical system would ensure the complete well-being of the workers.

Chemical hazard

All the non-biological elements which possess a potential risk factor, that might cause harm to a worker, forms the primary constituent of a chemical hazard. Workers working in Industries specialized in chemical manufacturing and handling are at high risk of developing severe burn injuries due to chemical spills and exposure and in the long term, they develop chronic health issues.

Psychological hazard

Work-related stress and anxiety are two of the most important factors which push a worker towards developing long-term psychological disorders. It is therefore mandatory for the organization to set up safety programs that issue safety tips, safety rules, and groom the overall workplace equipped with positive safety culture.

Steps to be taken for ensuring workplace safety

  • It is the sole responsibility of the organization to set up a safe workplace for its workers by implementing strict safety policies, safety plans and promoting safe work practices. When speaking about safety plans, having an emergency exist is the first and primary measure to be ensured by the organization. Emergency exits form a quick escape during a fire outbreak, radiation leakage (in the case of firms dealing with nuclear fuel), and other man-made and natural disasters.
  • Every organization should form separate health and safety committees constituting safety professionals whose primary job is to deliver workplace safety tips for every work in the organization. Besides this, it is also the sole responsibility of the safety committee to facilitate monthly health programs for the workers that educated them regarding workplace hazards and their associated workplace injuries.
  • Occupational health has become the forefront domain in every workplace in the U.S. For instance, the U.S. Department of health and human service is an executive branch of the U.S. federal government that aims to safeguard and protect the health of every American citizen and to provide health-related aids and human services.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a popular name in the U.S. was established by Congress under the occupational safety and health act of 1970. OSHA caters to ensure occupational health to every worker by enforcing workplace safety programs, training, education, and assistance under the OSHA regulations to all the workers. OSHA is a part of the United States Department of Labor which provides its services to most of the private sector employees and workers.

Context and Applications

The topic finds its major existence in various undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses like

  • Bachelors in Technology (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Bachelors in Technology (Civil Engineering)
  • Masters in Technology (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Masters in Technology (Civil Engineering)

Practice Problems

1. Which of the following organizations caters to ensure the safety of workers, especially in private sectors?

  1. OSHA
  2. National Safety Council
  3. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service
  4. none of these

Correct option- a

Explanation: OSHA is a part of the US department of labor which thrives to provide occupational safety to the workers by organizing training, providing education, and providing assistantships.

2. Which of the following can be termed as an unsafe environment for workers?

  1. Workers working in a workplace that has an emergency exit
  2. Workers working in a workplace that does not have an emergency exit
  3. Workers working in a workspace with unshielded radioactive containers
  4. Both a and c

Correct option- d

Explanation: A workplace without an emergency exit will prevent all the individuals working in the endangered area to escape which might lead to loss of lives. An unshielded radioactive container permits the passage of radioactive rays which might lead to severe long-term health issues for the individuals working in that zone.

3. Which of the following is a psychological hazard?

  1. Stress
  2. Anxiety
  3. Burns due to chemicals
  4. Both a and b

Correct option- d

Explanation: Stress and anxiety form major psychological disorders.

4. Which of the following is true for an employer?

  1. He/she provides service to the organization and gets paid
  2. He/she should establish a safe working culture in the workplace for every worker
  3. He/she hires individuals known as employees to work for a common goal of the organization
  4. Both a and d

Correct option- d

Explanation: An employer is an individual who hires employees to provide services for his organization. Apart from this, an employer has the sole responsibility to provide a safe working environment to his employees and workers.

5. Who among the following educates a worker regarding safety hazards?

  1. Safety committees
  2. Health administration
  3. Employer
  4. All of these

Correct option- a

Explanation: The primary role of safety committees is to educate the workers of the organization regarding safety hazards.

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