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Human Resources

Lecture 13
Safety, health and well-being
Discipline, disputes and grievances
This lecture:
- Discusses the importance of safety, health and employee well-being;
- Outlines the principle safety and health legalization;
- Discusses contemporary issues in safety and health management;
- Outlines procedures and practices for dealing with discipline problems;
- Discusses workplace disputes and how to handle them;
- Describes statutory procedures for handling disputes and grievances;
- Discusses harassment in the workplace.
There has always been tension between the employer’s desire to increase output and
improve efficiency and the employee’s need for protection against any adverse effects
of work and the workplace. The dangers have changed over the time. These days
dangers come from new technologies, from pressures in the contemporary world of
work, and from society outside the workplace.

The traditional preoccupation with matters of physical health and safety must now be
joined by an understanding of new health and well-being issues. These include stress,
ergonomics and the physical working environment, occupational overuse syndrome,
substance use and abuse, AIDS, and violence in the workplace.

Health and safety legislation

There are two different points of view on the necessity of involving the legislation into
the health and safety regulations at workplaces. Supporters of self-regulation argue that
both employers and workers have a self-interest in collaborating to achieve better
standards of occupational safety and health, and that they are best placed to make
changes and improvements. But, historically, only large organisations in the
conventionally dangerous and unionised industries like construction, forestry or the
waterfront – were likely to appoint specialist safety offices, establish safety
committees, or place any emphasis on accident prevention and safety management.
Smaller organisations typically gave little attention to these issues.
While self-regulation has been encouraged in New Zealand, legislation has long
provided an underpinning – starting with the Employment of Females Act 1873 – of
minimum standards in occupational safety and health to protect workers and put
pressure on employers who refuse to take their responsibilities seriously. Current
legislation, led by the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, does not prescribe
in great detail how safe and healthy working conditions are to be achieved. Rather, it
puts the obligation on employers – and workers – to ensure that their workplaces meet
certain standards of health and safety.

Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 aims:

-To promote excellence in health and safety management by employers;

-To impose specific duties on employers and others to prevent harm to employees;

-To provide for the making of regulations and approval of codes of practice relating to


The Act covers people in all places of work, but does not covr people who do not work
for hire or reward (volunteers).
Key definitions in the Act include:
-Accident – an event that causes, or might have caused harm to any person;

-Harm – illness, injury or both;

-Hazard – an activity, arrangement, circumstance, event, occurrence, phenomenon,

process, situation, or substance (whether arising or caused within or outside a place of

work) that is an actual or potential cause or source of harm.
-Safe – means a person is not exposed to hazards or that a place is free from hazards.

Duties of employers
-Provide and maintain a safe working environment;

-Ensure that machinery and equipment are safe for employees to use;

-Ensure that employees are not exposed to hazards in the course of their work;

-Develop procedures for dealing with emergencies in the workplace;

-Ensure that employees have sufficient knowledge and experience of their work, or are

well supervised, so that they do not cause harm to others;

-Ensure that employees are adequately trained in the safe use of plant, substances,

protective clothing and equipment;

-Take all practicable steps to ensure that employees do not cause harm to any other

people who might be in the workplace.

Hazard management
Employers must have systems for identifying hazards to employees at work. All
employees must take all practicable steps:
-To eliminate a significant hazard, or

-To isolate a significant hazard from employees if it cannot be eliminated, or

-To minimise the likely harm to employees, if the hazard cannot be totally eliminated

or isolated.

Employers must also:

-Ensure that protective clothing and equipment are readily available and used, and
-Monitor employees’ exposure to the hazard and, with the informed consent of the

employees, monitor employees’ health as well.

Employees must have the opportunity to be fully involved in the development of

procedures for managing hazards and dealing with emergencies or imminent dangers.
Information for employees
Employees must be:
-Given information about what to do in the event of emergencies in the workplace;
-Told where safety clothing and equipment are kept;

-Told about hazards to which they might be exposed, or which they might create while

at work, and told how they should minimise the likelihood of those hazards causing
harm and others;
-Given the results of any safety and health monitoring of the workplace or of their own


Duties of employees
Employees are required to take all practicable steps to ensure their own safety while at
work, and to ensure that nothing they do, or fail to do, causes harm to others.

Duties of other people

The person who has control of a place of work must take all practicable steps to ensure
that people in the workplace of its vicinity are no harmed in any way. Self-employed
people are principles of contractors or subcontractors have similar duties to ensure that
they do not cause harm to themselves or others.
Health and safety regulations
Regulations made under the Health and Safety in Employment Act are important. They
prescribe detailed requirements for such things as first aid facilities, cleanliness and
sanitary facilities, lighting, ventilation, temperature, access and egress, machinery
maintenance, and storage of materials.

Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996

This legislation aims to protect the environment, and the health and safety of people
and communities, by preventing or managing the adverse effects of hazardous
substances and new organisms.

Accident compensation
-Provides no-fault and comprehensive coverage for all workers who may suffer

accidental injury-both for their medical and related expenses and to maintain their
-Offers incentives to employers to improve their safety and accident prevention

performance and records;

-Gives the Accident Compensation Corporation a central role in supporting the

development of safety programmes in the workplace and providing rehabilitation

services for the victims of work-related (and other) injuries.
Managing safety and health
Many organisations have safety and health practices which go well beyond the
minimum standards required by law. There are a number of reason for this:
-The organisation wants to be regarded as an employer-of-choice and sees positive HR

practices as part of this strategy;

-The employer accepts a moral and social obligation to ensure that employees are not

adversely affected by their work or the workplace;

-The bargaining power of its employees has led the organisation to agree to collectively

negotiated standards which exceed the minimum requirements;

-The employer recognises that significant economic benefits can flow to the

organisation if it maintains a safe and healthy work environment and a safe and healthy

160 people die from the work-related injuries every year in New Zealand, while
another 400 die from work-related illnesses.
Health and safety policies
-State the organisation’s commitment to proactive management of health and safety;

-Define the safety responsibilities and obligations of the organisation, its managers, and individual

-Describe how the organisation will plan, monitor and review its health and safety activities,

including the identification and elimination or management of workplace hazards;

-Describe the major hazards, the risks associated with them, and the preventive measures in place;

-Outline the steps to be taken in the event of an emergency;

-Describe arrangements for consultation on safety and health matters.

Workplace safety committees

-Highlight safety and health problems in the workplace;

-Recommend corrective action;

-Help investigate accidents;

-Conduct periodic safety audits;

-Raise the personal safety consciousness of its members, which then flow on to other employees;

-Demonstrate to employees that management is interested and concerned with safety and health

-Involves a range of employees in accident prevention activities, especially if the committee’s

membership rotates from time to time.

Health and safety programmes
Managers are responsible for health and safety in their own departments, but effective
implementation of an organisation-wide health and safety programme needs the
direction and support of top management.

Unfortunately many organisation disregard the importance of health and safety controls
and they realise how serious it is only after there has been an injury accident and the
organisation has, as a consequence, been prosecuted, convicted and heavily penalised
by the courts.

Secondly, flatter and leaner organisations have fewer managers or supervisors to

oversee safety and health matters closely, and may not have done enough to impress on
all employees the need for them to take their safety and health responsibilities
Hazard management
A key feature of the Health and Safety in Employment Act is the responsibility it puts
on employers to manage hazards – to identify, assess, eliminate, isolate or minimise
them. It required employers to have ‘effective methods’ for idenditifying hazards, and
to assess regularly whether each hazard is significant.

-All practicable steps must be taken to eliminate significant hazards;

-If a significant hazard cannot be eliminated, all practicable steps must be taken to

isolate it from employees;

-If a hazard cannot be totally eliminated or isolated, employers must take all practicable

steps to minimise the likely harm to employees.

Identifying hazards
-Examine an area of the workplace and the activities undertaken there (hazards should

be grouped by type or location, otherwise it is difficult to control or know about all

hazards from a long list);
-Analyse different occupations and their tasks;

-Analyse the total process.

Accident prevention
- Provide direction and support.
- Survey the problem.
- Set standards.
- Establish recording procedures.
- Corrective action.
- Give feedback.
- Recognise results.

An approach to accident investigation

11. Who should investigate.
12. Gather all the facts.
13. Identify all the hazards involved.
14. Assess the hazard control in place.
15. Decide on future action.
16. Inform all those affected.
17. Follow up.
Computer technology
-Work station design;

-Work design (use of keyboards, monitors);

-Eyes tests;

-Information and training.

Occupational overuse syndrome (OOS)

Umbrella term for range of conditions which are characterised by pain and/ or other
sensations in muscles, tendons, nerves , soft tissues and joints. Conditions may be caused, or
significantly contributed to, by work factors.

Shift work
- Plan rotating shift cycles so that they move in a clockwise direction (i.e. day-evening-
- Eliminate weekly shift rotations: some research suggests cycles of more than three weeks
on each shift are best;
- Ensure that workers with medical conditions like asthmas or diabetes are put on day or
evening shifts;
- Provide hot, nutritious meals for night workers;
-Ensure that lighting, ventilation, temperature and noise controls are adequate on all shifts.
Violence in the workplace
The possibility of violence should be regarded as a workplace hazard and managed

Violence does not only take the form of physical attacks. It may also be oral (making
threats, shouting or swearing), visual (with gestures, drawings or posters), written
(using threatening notes or pornographic literature).

Policy on violence.
The safety and security of our employees, customers, suppliers, contractors and the
general public are of vital importance. Therefore, acts of made by an employee against
another person’s life, health, well-being, family, or property will not be tolerated.
Employees who are found to have acted with violence will be subject to discipline,
which may involve immediate dismissal.

Employees must report any behaviour which compromises the company’s ability to
maintain a safe work environment. All reports will be investigated immediately and
kept confidential, except where there is a legitimate need to know.
Stress and fatigue

It is not situations that are stressful: people cause their own stress by the way they
relate to those situations.

-Environmental factors (noise, poor lighting, poor ventilation and temperature control,
fumes and/ or smoking, overcrowding, isolation, vibration, static, badly designed
furniture or machines);
-Job design factors (poor job design and conflicting objectives, role conflict, too much

or too little work, monotonous and repetitive work, under-utilisation of skills, too little
or too much supervision, lack of job control, lack on involvement in decision making,
constant sitting, inadequate breaks, constant use of machines.
-Contractual factors – low pay shift work, unsocial hours, excessive hours or overtime,

job insecurity, poorly thought-out or unfair promotion procedures, lack of recognition;

-Relationship factors – poor relationships with colleagues at any level, impersonal

treatment, sexism or racism, ageism, poor communication, client/customer complaints.

How to recognise stress?
-Mood changes (anger, unease, guilt, hopelessness);

-Cognitive changes (poor concentration, not remembering things);

-Behavioural changes (more errors, double checking everything, extra smoking).

Avoiding stress
-Minimise unpredictability and ambiguity at work;
-Minimise uncontrollable events;
-Minimise physical stressors;

-Avoid recurring (daily) stresses;

-Watch for negative effects (boredom and apathy, anger and hostility, etc.)

Handing stress