What is World Day for Safety & Health at Work?
The World Day for Safety and Health at work is an annual international campaign, held on April 28, to promote health, safety, and decent work. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has observed this day since 2003 as an integral element of its Global Strategy on Occupational Health and Safety.
By setting international labor standards, the organization emphasizes the importance of a health and safety culture in all fields in the prevention of work-related injuries and deaths, and the occupational spread of diseases. Poor occupational safety and health practices are an issue of significant magnitude, both in terms of human and economic costs. So, whether onsite, in an office, or from home, we all have a part to play in mitigating this.
Here are four tips for safer working:
DON'T BE COMPLACENT
Much like the pre-flight safety briefing that we all definitely leave our headphones in for, most of us are guilty of being complacent when it comes to health and safety procedures. It is vital that regardless of the environment you work in or the tools you work with, you read and keep abreast of any changes to your company’s health and safety policy.
By law, every employer must have a policy for managing the safety and health of its employees. This should include who does what, when, and how. Moreover, this policy must be accessible to employees.
In construction, the introduction of new technologies and processes means that there are new and emerging occupational risks, so while employers must conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify the measures necessary to comply with regulations, it's your duty to remain informed.
ASK FOR ADDITIONAL TRAINING EQUIPMENT
According to the ILO’s Safety and Health in Construction code of practice, a competent person is a person possessing adequate qualifications, such as suitable training and sufficient knowledge, experience, and skill for the safe performance of the specific work.
Training also refers to an understanding of the hazards connected to your work and the precautions necessary to avoid accidents and injury to health. You must be confident in your knowledge-base as it pertains to maintaining safety and health while doing your job.
Similarly, communicating any equipment needs is important – whether that be replacing faulty tools or requesting protective equipment or clothing. You have the right to remove yourself from work situations, which you have a reasonable justification to believe, present an imminent and serious danger to your life or health.
REMEMBER THAT MENTAL HEALTH IS PART OF OCCUPATIONAL WELLNESS
Our understanding of occupational safety and health is thankfully expanding to include mental health in the workplace. A UK governmental agency, the Health and Safety Executive, estimates that mental health problems are the second largest category of occupational ill-health.
Construction is a physically demanding job but to truly improve safety and health in the industry, attention must also be paid to mental strain and work-related stress. The pressurized lifestyle, instability and uncertainty that comes from working in the industry lends itself to an increase in mental health issues.
Management and employers should approach mental health with the same vigor they do to mitigate physical hazards and promote physical health – i.e. conducting risks assessments, delivering training to recognize and respond to signs, and offering occupational health that extends to mental wellbeing and counselling. Furthermore, we must all work towards promoting a culture of respect of dignity.
SAFETY AND HEALTH MATTER AT HOME TOO
Mitigating the spread of infectious diseases in the workplace is a crucial part of promoting occupational safety and health. Given the current global crisis, the ILO is using this day to raise awareness on the adoption of safe practices in workplaces and the role that occupational safety and health (OSH) services play.
For many of us, enforced self-isolation and social distancing measures have meant working from home. Unfortunately, inadequate support for setting up a workstation, ensuring a safe work environment, or protecting physical and psychological health and wellbeing will likely have future effects in terms of work-related injuries and other health problems.
Therefore, it is necessary to assess and evaluate your home-work environment and consider how it may be optimized. Resources, like the Work Improvement Safe Home (WISH) action manual, are designed to provide home workers with practical, easy-to-implement ideas to improve their safety, health, and working conditions.
As workers continue to adapt to their new working environment, as kitchen tables replace office desks and homes replace construction sites, the importance of occupational safety and health has become all the more pertinent. So, let's mark World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2020 by making a concerted effort to adopt measures in our daily lives to promote the physical and mental well-being of ourselves and others.