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The Occupational Hygiene Programme and Why It is Important

That employees will occasionally have accidents in the workplace is, unfortunately, a matter of fact. That employers are obliged to do whatever is necessary to minimise such workplace accidents, however, is now a matter of law. For this purpose, the Department of Labour introduced the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its various amendments. Under its terms, employers are required to adopt an occupational hygiene programme designed to identify and to minimise any features of the workspace that might otherwise prove hazardous to the health of those who operate within it. In this respect, the act goes a step further by including, not only the risk of accidental injuries, but also that of illnesses resulting from factors in the working environment.

Before any steps can be taken to eliminate or to minimise them, it is first necessary to identify all of the potential hazards that may be present. This should be the first step in any occupational hygiene programme, and it will require a comprehensive audit of each and every area in which work is undertaken. The task is a specialised and exacting one and, as such, it may only be performed by a suitably certified specialist.

Workplace hazards are basically of three main types. They may be of a physical, chemical, or biological nature while, in some circumstances, ergonomic factors might also be worthy of consideration. One of the most serious, yet frequently downplayed hazards is that of excessive noise. Given that noise-induced hearing loss is now the most common industrial injury, noise levels are frequently a focus of an occupational hygiene programme. Other potential physical hazards that also might require assessment are vibration and ionising radiation.

Exposure to potentially hazardous chemicals is a frequent requirement in many industries. They may, for example, cause harm to an employee by contact with the skin leading to dermatitis which, when severe, can be extremely debilitating and lead to lengthy periods of absence. Inhalation, however, is perhaps a more insidious route by which chemicals may cause harm, as they are less visible in the form of aerosols. An effective occupational hygiene programme will detect such hazards and then evaluate the risks they pose together with the effectiveness of any counter-measures currently in place. Should the latter be found lacking, the inspector will recommend any necessary improvements, which the employer must then undertake to implement.

While sometimes perceived as some sort of “big brother” surveillance operation, in practice, these inspections are of just as much benefit to the employer as they are to the employees. A major goal of the occupational hygiene programme is to create an environment of mutual trust and cooperation between the management and staff, which can only benefit the company’s overall productivity. Furthermore, the relatively small cost of implementing its recommendations has the potential to save a company a great deal more by helping to avoid downtime due to accidents and ill-health, as well as costly compensation claims.

How confident are you that those on your payroll are safe from workplace hazards and that you are not at risk of being landed with a hefty compensation claim at some time in the near future? Only a professional occupational hygiene programme can offer such assurances. Do not delay. Talk to IOH Solutions today.