At all times all occupations have been known to carry some potential of risk to their respective employees. However, with industrialisation premised on the use of machines, the working environment has become more risky. When industrialisation speeds up, not only new risks appear but they may multiply too. This is followed by risks spreading to outside factories too, and are to be found in the sectors that are associated with and support the industrialisation process, such as construction of buildings, development of adequate transport systems and so on and so forth.
Obviously the possibility and nature of risks vary from occupation to occupation, implying that there are some risks which are specific to certain occupations. And not all occupations are found in all countries e.g. there is no mining in Mauritius, and therefore our focus would be on those occupations found in the country – although from a health and safety point of view, one must also study and be familiar with as many fields as possible because there may well be lessons to learn and to share across these fields.
Looked at logically, there is the human being (the ‘man’) and the machine, along with the work processes and procedures that link the two. Next there is the product, and then the environment in which the work is carried out. The risks are to be found in all these elements.. Each of them must therefore be in the best state possible, in terms of structure and functioning, and in terms of implementation and compliance.
Thus the man must be in good health, with sound limbs, eyesight, vision and hearing, and receive the appropriate training and continuing re-training both for the job as well as be thoroughly familiar with the safety aspects of doing the job; the machine must be in a fit running condition all the time; the work processes and procedures must be adhered to meticulously, and regularly updated; and the overall working environment so designed and built that risks specific to it are reduced to the minimum.
It goes without saying that the State must pass all the relevant legislations related to the different sectors, and that there must be a system of regular safety check that is both internally driven and external overseen so as to conform to best practices and international standards.
Following the recent mishaps in the country with death of people, such as the driver of the Blueline bus (being a bus driver or a bus conductor is one of the riskiest jobs in Mauritius), it would perhaps be useful to remind ourselves what a Health and Safety Management System is about:
‘A health and safety management system is a process put in place by an employer to minimize the risk of injury and illness. This is accomplished by identifying, assessing and controlling risks to workers in all workplace operations.
The scope and complexity of a health and safety management system will vary according to the type of workplace and the nature of operations carried out.
To be effective, the following eight components should be in place:
1. Identification and analysis of health and safety hazards at the work site
Evaluation of all equipment, machinery, work areas and work processes to identify and analyze all potential sources of harm to workers.
2. Control measures to eliminate or reduce the risks to workers from hazards.
Control measures include: engineering controls, administrative controls and personal protective equipment.
3. Clearly demonstrated and management commitment, and written company policy
Commitment from senior management is essential for the health and safety management system to be effective.
4. Worker competency and training
Workers need to know how to do their jobs safely and without risk to their health; new and/or young workers need special attention.
5. Inspection program
Inspections are an opportunity to identify any hazards that have not been recognized before, and to check that existing hazard controls are working.
6. Emergency response planning
Emergencies could include natural or manmade disasters as well as health emergencies or injuries. Effective plans need to be in place to address all potential emergencies.
7. Incident reporting and investigation
When an incident occurs at any workplace it is important to investigate so that any inadequately controlled hazards are identified and controlled and processes can be put in place to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents.
8. Management system administration
Program administration ensures that all parts of a health and safety management system are properly looked after and communicated to employees.’
If sometimes accidents are inevitable, loss of lives or crippling damage to the person are not necessarily so if all the precautions are taken. Let us hope that there are better days to come, so that the memory of that tragic bus accident fades as soon as possible.
* Published in print edition on 10 May 2013