Employers have a legal and moral responsibility to maintain a safe and healthy workplace. A safety and health management system can help employers focus their efforts at improving the work environment. Simply put, a safety and health management system describes what the people in an organization do to prevent injuries and illnesses at that workplace.
Every organisation will have its own unique system, reflecting their way of doing business, the hazards at the workplace, and how they manage the safety and health of all persons within the workplace. Indeed, the discipline that goes into a safety program will spill over into production and quality control. People will be more aware of safety and how they do their jobs.
A successful safety and health system will be part of an organisation’s overall business operation, as important as the other things done to succeed in business. Employees have a stake in the success of any safety and health programme in the workplace. It is the safety and health of these employees which are being safeguarded and therefore, their active involvement is required for the program to succeed. Every person should be held accountable since safety and health is everyone’s responsibility.
A proven way of actively involving employees in any safety and health program is by using safety and health committees. Such a committee is a key component of a workplace safety and health management system. The committee is an advisory group and it remains the employer’s responsibility to make decisions about safety and health issues.
In Kenya, the Occupational Safety and health (OSH) Act of 2007 requires every employer to establish a safety and health committee at the workplace if there are twenty or more persons regularly employed at that workplace. The size of this committee depends on the number of workers employed at the place of work. The Safety and Health Committee Rules of 2004, a subsidiary legislation under OSHA directs all employers who are required to form safety and health committees to appoint a committee made up of an equal number of members from management and workers based on the total number of employees in the company.
For a balanced representation, these members should be from different sections of the company as they will be representing other employees. It is a requirement that all committee members should undergo safety and health committee training approved by the Directorate of Occupational Safety and Health Services under the Labour ministry.
To promote a safe and healthy work environment, the OSH Act requires the workplace safety and health committee to establish a safety and health inspection schedule for the workplace, carry out the inspections at least once in three months, identify occupational hazards and cases of ill-health among employees and make appropriate recommendations, among other things.
Mr Oloo is an engineer and a workplace safety specialist