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Occupational safety 

Occupational safety

Chapter:
Occupational safety
Author(s):

Lawrence Waterman

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199204854.003.090402

February 27, 2014: This chapter has been re-evaluated and remains up-to-date. No changes have been necessary.

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date: 26 March 2017

Any approach to occupational health must acknowledge that accidents in the workplace result in many injuries. Construction, agriculture, and primary extraction are the main causes of fatalities and serious injuries, but many more minor injuries result from all kinds of work.

Health and safety law has developed with an emphasis on accident prevention that is based on designing and managing the working environment by (1) defining appropriate processes and work practices that are safe; (2) developing and maintaining a health and safety culture; and (3) influencing behaviour so that everyone is focused on the best and safest way to do their work.

Establishing this approach to safety management begins with an organization committing itself to a policy influenced by legal obligations and current good practice, such as the developing standards for corporate governance of risks and public reporting. Management systems based on the formula ‘Plan–Do–Check–Act’ are central to accident prevention, with detailed decisions driven by risk assessments.

A key ingredient to safety is genuine worker engagement, going beyond the legal obligations for consultation. Organizations can improve their safety culture when they recognize that this is the product of individual and group values, attitudes, competence, and patterns of behaviour that determine the commitment to, and the style and proficiency of, their safety programmes. A positive culture requires appropriate leadership, including genuine commitment of the most senior manager(s) in the organization, and an appropriate emphasis on competence, such that the right people, trained and skilled, are doing the right job in the right way, with their supervisors and managers having ready access to competent health and safety advice when required.

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