Bedazzled, bewitched or bewildered? Keep it simple!
Sheila Pantry, OBE
Those whose job it is to secure, or aim to secure good standards of health and safety in all workplaces can be easily distracted by the latest gizmo or idea. In this dotcom world of ours it is easy to get bedazzled, bewitched, bewildered or totally distracted from the main plot of trying to prevent accidents, avoiding long term health problems, and ensuring that all workers do return home each day bodily intact and wiser by their work experience.
We know that over 1 million work-related deaths occur annually, according to estimates from the ILO, and hundreds of millions of workers suffer from workplace accidents and occupational exposure to hazardous substances worldwide. Every year 250 million accidents occur causing absence from work, the equivalent of 685,000 accidents every day, 475 every minute, eight every second. We know that 3,000 people are killed by work every day, two every minute. And working children have 12 million occupational accidents and an estimated 12,000 of them are fatal. In addition, asbestos alone kills more than 100,000 workers every year.
Dr Jukka Takala, Chief of the ILO's Health and Safety programme, at the 15th World Congress on Occupational Safety and Health, held in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1999, pointed out that the annual tally of 1.1 million workplace deaths exceeded the average annual deaths from road accidents (999,000), war (502,000), violence (563,000) and HIV/AIDS (312,000).
Daunting figures, but bringing these thoughts back to everyday work life, it should be the duty of everyone to understand their job, the risks and the dangers involved. Getting distracted could mean that you add to the statistics quoted above, so keeping the idea of being health, safety and environmentally conscious at all times must be the duty of everyone. Remember the five steps of risk assessment as the daily simple creed, and ensure that everyone is aware of the hazards of their workplace. This can be done through information, training and continuously re-assessing the workplace as new machinery, systems, substances and materials are being introduced.
As we approach the New Year we need to think about the simple steps to be taken to improve the way we work. New workers - young people without any real understanding of the dangers of the workplace need particular help; so do those new to a particular new area of work.
Perhaps your organisation can improve on its health and safety performance in 2001 by paying attention to the simple, but maybe potentially dangerous and hazardous areas of work.
And maybe 2001 could be the year to achieve zero accidents and no health problems in your workplace!
Sheila Pantry is Editor/Compiler of Health and Safety World. She also runs an
information consultancy specializing in health and safety information,
particularly computerized information, and is a partner publisher with
SilverPlatter Information Ltd.