Pre–covid, most people after mentioning health and safety at work would have the default thought of people working at factories, mines, construction, etc. Only a handful of those working in the corporate world would have thought that this also applies to them. Over the past year, fortunately, or unfortunately, everyone has had to learn about PPEs (personal protective equipment) and other bits and bytes about safety and health at work.
In brief, health and safety refer to regulations and procedures intended to prevent accidents or injury in workplaces or public environments. Our general well-being on top of wearing rubber boots for concrete workers and nitrile gloves for doctors involves our mental health. Workplace stress is a collective challenge that is finally getting the attention it deserves. It is very important that employers recognize and cater to those employees struggling with work-related stress. One solution could be organizing roundtables where workers share their highs and lows every so often. A mental health professional can also be involved. A few frequently asked questions will help us understand this a bit further.
Q1. What are the key elements of Occupational Safety and health?
- At a minimum, companies are required to promote a culture of prevention ensuring workers’ right to a safe and healthy environment is respected. The employees or their representatives should be involved in the process of ensuring the work environment is safe and healthy. They should be able to anticipate, prepare and respond to crises. Relevant protective clothing and equipment must be adequately provided and free of charge. The physical and mental capacities of workers as human beings should be taken into account. Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers should not be required to do work that may harm either them or their children. Any chemicals, biological or physical substances that pose a risk to workers should be clearly labeled and appropriately stored. All employees should be aware of what to do in case of an accident or emergency. A first aid kit and a fire extinguisher are among the bare minimum tools that should be readily available. Any dangerous occurrences should be recorded and relevant authorities notified.
Q2. Can I be fired for not wearing PPEs?
- Yes, you can. However, only after being given repeated written warnings. The employer should ensure that their employees are fully aware of the importance of wearing PPEs and the consequences of failure to do so, including dismissal for misconduct if it applies.
Q3. What happens when my religious beliefs hinder wearing PPEs?
- Discrimination on the basis of religious belief is not allowed. Companies should therefore make reasonable efforts to accommodate religious customs. However, the safety of the worker and those around them should not be compromised in the process.
Q4. Who is responsible when I get hurt at work?
- Companies are expected to have a workers compensation cover which ensures employees are taken care of in the event of an injury. This may differ from workplace to workplace. It is important to know the policies your company has concerning workplace injuries so as to be well informed of your options.
Q5. As an employer, where do I start?
- The first step is to identify any hazards in the workplace. With the help of your employees, ask yourself questions such as: What is the worst thing that can happen? What could go wrong? This is part of a process called “Risk assessment” From the findings, you can come up with relevant mitigation measures. For a more detailed approach, you can click HERE
Ultimately, the employee is very, if not the most, important resource at the workplace and should therefore be protected at all costs!
Ponea Health offers a Covid Care Package for all employees. Call us 24/7 on +254 111 013 900 and we will deliver right to where you are.
By Joyce Bochere – Clinical Triage at Ponea Health