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Introduction:

The roles and responsibilities of an Occupational Health and Safety Manager are very challenging. The wellbeing of workers is so important that negligence in this area could lead to poor productivity, negative publicity and higher risk of fatalities. This is especially true in the transport industry, where accidents are almost inevitable. Hence, as the OHS Manager of a large national transport company, successful fulfilment of my duties toward ensuring a safe working environment has implications for the overall health and sustenance of the business. The rest of this essay will lay out the benefits of providing a safe working environment by citing relevant legislative, financial and moral rationale.

Legal Aspects:

The Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act of 1986 will be the basic document of reference for my decisions and initiatives. Section 19 of the act is particularly relevant, for it outlays the duties of employers toward employee safety. This section notes that an employer must,

“in respect of each employee employed or engaged by the employer, ensure so far as is reasonably practicable that the employee is, while at work, safe from injury and risks to health and, in particular, must provide and maintain so far as is reasonably practicable, a safe working environment, safe systems of work, plant and substances in a safe condition…” (www.austlii.edu.au, 2012)

The OHSW Act is quite thorough in the range of clauses it includes, covering all contingencies and freak occurrences. As OHS Manager of a large national transport company, one of my primary challenges is in sorting and managing the slew of complaints, grievances and lawsuits that will be raised against the company, especially against the department. But rather than an antagonistic approach toward disposing these issues, an empathetic and compassionate approach will fetch better results. (Murphy & Cooper, 2000) After all, given the high risks taken by workers by involving themselves in the transportation business, one should respect their genuine concerns and seek to resolve them. The government of South Australia has heeded to the demands of workers of the region and has tightened its laws governing OHS. The verdict on recently held case Farrell v B & A Fisheries Pty Ltd [2012] SAIRC bears out this fact. (www.safework.sa.gov.au, 2012)

Financial Aspects:

From a financial point of view, the costs incurred by the management in building safety nets for workers are worth it in the long run. For example, offering them disability insurance, life insurance, installing air bags in transport vehicles, etc, are worthy investments when one considers the emotional and monetary distress that they would later save employees. Creating a feeling of security and trust among employees will benefit the company by reducing attrition rates, enhancing loyalty and increasing motivation level of employees. Hence, from a financial standpoint, every dollar spent toward building safety mechanisms for worker health, will indirectly boost the bottom line. Moreover, the provisions for fines in the OHSW Act, makes it prudent to invest in safety rather than pay for negligence and poor standards. For example, under the OHSW Act, a first offence would lead to a Division 2 fine and a subsequent offence a Division 1 fine. That preventing a mishap is wiser than paying after the fact is underscored by the elaborate dictates of the OHSW Act. The moral angle is also taken into account in the Act, as it states that “an employer must so far as is reasonably practicable, monitor the health and welfare of the employer’s employees in their employment with the employer, insofar as that monitoring is relevant to the prevention of work-related injuries” (www.austlii.edu.au, 2012) The verdict on Symons v Downer EDI Works Pty Ltd [2012] SAIRC 22 illustrates the financial cost of slack OHS management: “2/5/12 DOWNER EDI WORKS PTY LTD (ACN 008 709 608): was convicted and fined $187 500 plus costs after pleading guilty to a breach of s19(1). On 23 May 2009, a 50-year-old employee sustained severe injuries including partial tetraplegia when he slipped and fell into a pit, becoming trapped in an inclined belt.” (www.safework.sa.gov.au, 2012)

Moral Aspects:

Coming to the moral reasons for OHS measures I will look at worker safety at the level of corporate social responsibility. Workers should never merely be treated as production units to be fetched and disposed into the labour market. The moment one sees the humanity behind each worker, the necessity for ensuring their safety and wellbeing becomes clear. As a respected business corporation, our national transport company has a duty toward the larger community in which we operate. To the extent that workers are members of this community makes it our social duty to ensure their wellbeing. This argument may not be well received by shareholders, as it could cut into profitability. But, eventually, unless the company builds its reputation within the larger community, it is less likely to grow its goodwill and brand image – crucial intangibles for long term sustenance. (Archer, et.al, 2009)

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