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Occupational Health and Safety

Adapted from content excerpted from Better Work, a partnership of IFC and the International Labour Organization


Improved occupational safety and health enhances productivity by reducing the number of interruptions in the manufacturing process, reducing absences, decreasing the number of accidents and improving work efficiency.  Employers and workers both have responsibilities and rights in relation to occupational safety and health (OSH).  A preventative approach to OSH is the best strategy to eliminate most workplace accidents, injuries, and diseases.

The following actions of the employer can lead to injuries, accidents and deseases:

  • Failing to assess health and safety in the workplace, or to take steps to address risks.
  • Not informing or training workers on OSH issues.
  • Failing to put adequate mechanisms in place to ensure co-operation between workers and managers on OSH.
  • Not recording and/or reporting work-related accidents, injuries and diseases.
  • Failing to provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and/or training on its use.
  • Failing to keep an inventory, or to properly label or store chemicals or hazardous substances.
  • Not installing or maintaining guards on dangerous machinery.
  • Failing to ensure that the workplace meets standards for temperature, ventilation, noise and lighting.
  • Not providing adequate first aid and/or health services.
  • Failing to provide adequate toilets, hand-washing facilities or free drinking water.
  • Providing worker accommodation that does not meet minimum standards.
  • Failing to prepare adequately for emergencies.

Key action points for employers to avoid injuries, accidents and diseases:

  • Encourage workers to discuss concerns about health and safety and make sure that there are avenues for them to do so. Check national law for requirements on worker consultation.
  • Investigate and record accidents and injuries, and use the information to put measures in place to avoid similar occurrences. Report accidents and injuries as required by national law.
  • Check national law for chemical safety requirements.
  • Keep inventories of chemicals and chemical safety data sheets, and ensure that chemicals are correctly labelled and stored.
  • Make sure that all workers receive the supervision, information and training they need to do their jobs safely, including in relation to PPE and hazardous substances.
  • Ensure that workers are not punished if they remove themselves from work situations when they reasonably believe there is an imminent and serious threat to their health or life.
  • Install guards on dangerous moving parts of machines.
  • Ensure that electrical wires, switches and plugs are properly installed, grounded and maintained.
  • Put measures in place to avoid heavy lifting, e.g., trolleys or carts to move heavy or bulky loads.
  • Provide suitable chairs for sitting workers and provide standing workers shock absorbing mats to stand on and regular breaks to sit down.
  • Where necessary, provide PPE, and train and encourage workers to use it correctly.
  • Ensure that temperature, ventilation, noise and lighting are at acceptable levels.
  • Provide health services and first aid that are appropriate for the workplace.
  • Provide adequate facilities for workers (toilets, washing facilities, eating area, personal storage).
  • Ensure that any accommodation provided meets all relevant requirements.
  • Inform and prepare workers for possible emergencies in the workplace.
  • Develop a written OSH policy to make sure that everyone is aware of their rights and responsibilities in relation to health and safety.
  • Carry out regular OSH assessments as required by national law, and follow up on risks identified during the assessment.

The following points reflect important aspects of a safe working environment:

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