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Chapter 1

MHR 711 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Safety Data Sheet

Human Resources
Course Code
MHR 711
Gerald Swartz

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Introduction to Occupational Health & Safety
HR bears greatest burden for monitoring an organization’s OH&S—if HR fails to meet this, costs are immense
Occupational health and safety is one of the 8 major content areas defining the practice of HR
Lost-Time Injury: workplace injury that results in the employee missing time from work
Workplace fatalities and injuries are concentrated by industry
i.e. construction, manufacturing, and transportation are the most dangerous in terms of workplace fatalities
Occupational Health & Safety: identification, evaluation, control of hazards associated with work environment
-Hazards range from chemical, biological, and physical agents to psychosocial disorders (i.e. stress)
Goal of an organization’s health and safety program is to reduce occupational injuries/illnesses
Occupational Injury: any cut, fracture, sprain, or amputation resulting from a workplace accident
Occupational Illness: abnormal disorder caused by exposure to environmental factors of employment
OH&S issues affect a wide range of players—employers, employees, families, and those who contribute to the insurance and
compensation systems that have been developed to assist and rehabilitate workers
Health & safety concerns are no longer limited to industrial workers—employees in white-collar environments are worrying about
things like repetitive strain injury and sick building syndrome
Rising costs associated with work-related injuries/illness, and public’s decreasing tolerance for work-related hazards underlie the
need to understand and implement effective OH&S policies/programs
OH&S is about making workplace safer, educating employers how to make the workplace safe – we did something wrong… how can we
prevent it from going wrong in the first place?
Concern for OH&S was first evident in late 19th century, when Ontario passed legislation that established safety standards i.e.
mandating guards on machines
By the early 20th century, every jurisdiction in Canada had passed factory laws to regulate heating, lighting, ventilation, hygiene,
fire safety, and accident reporting
-Inspectors were appointed in each province/territory to enforce standards and conduct regular inspections
Royal Commission on the Relations of Capital and Labour in Canada (1889) had important influence on development of health
and safety regulations, by doing the following:
-Recommendations for improving health/safety by establishing standards & mandating regular inspections
-First to recommend system for compensating victims of industrial accidents, regardless of who was at fault
-Recommended that a labour bureau be created to oversee this activities
1960s and 1970s: important time for health and safety in Canada
-Implementation of Canada Labour (Standards) Code and the Canada Labour (Safety) Code
1974: Ontario gov’t formed Royal Commission on Health and Safety of Workers in mines
-Commission was first to articulate the three typical principal rights of workers:
1. Right to refuse dangerous work without penalty
2. Right to participate in identifying and correcting health and safety problems
3. Right to know about hazards in the workplace
-these are still enshrined in current legislation and are basis for many of Canada’s health and safety programs
i.e. WHMIS based on fundamental right of workers to know about potential hazards in the workplace
Until early 20th century, dominant model of dealing with hazards in workplace was legal doctrine of assumption of risk: belief that
a worker accepted risks of employment when he/she accepted a job
-Under this doctrine, employers bore little or no responsibility for worker health and safety
-Employers did not have to provide compensation to workers unless accident was solely employer’s fault
-Associated with the assumption-of-risk doctrine was belief that occupational injuries were caused by worker carelessness – in its
most extreme form, this notion was expressed as a belief in the accident-prone personality
Accident Proneness: some individuals inherently more likely than others to be involved in accidents, as a result of individual
characteristics (therefore, most accidents caused by small proportion of workers)
Modern health and safety programs have moved beyond these early beliefs, having recognized that enhancing occupational health
and safety requires cooperation among multiple stakeholders
Government, employers, and employees all have a role to play in enhancing health and safety outcomes
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Economic Considerations
Economic costs associated with work-related injury are both direct and indirect
The lost time attributable to injuries exceeds that of labour disruptions such as strikes or lockouts
Direct Costs of Injury: worker’s lost time, time spent in investigating incident, and finding/training of replacement worker
Indirect Costs of Injury: Worker’s compensation, potential fines/legal costs associated with unsafe workplace conditions
-Labour disputes involving safety issues such as pollutant levels, safety equipment, and first aid facilities result in thousands of
lost days of worker production
-Incalculable costs are those where employees quit or refuse to work in companies because of safety/health concerns
-Negative publicity for companies (i.e. when death, accident or serious health problem becomes public)
Direct and indirect estimates must be considered as underestimates of the true costs of workplace injury/illness because:
1. Workplace injuries are not accurately reported
2. Occupational injury statistics do not adequately capture the extent of illnesses that are caused or exacerbated by exposure
to workplace conditions
Managers who are committed to safety can turn adverse publicity into a marketing and recruitment advantage by advertising their
concerns about employee safety
Employers that are not concerned about health and safety of employees affect other employers and taxpaying citizens
Workers’ Compensation rates are determined by industry sector
-A negligent employer forcers others in the sector to pay higher rates, and these costs are significant
Unsafe working conditions cause insurance premiums to escalate and health expenditures to increase
Industry estimates indicate that upto 90% of safety-related changes can result in positive paybacks through associated reductions
in Workers’ Compensation premiums
-Programs such as the New Experimental Experience Rating (NEER) reward employers for implementing safe work practices by
reducing Workers’ Compensation costs based on the company’s actual experience
Organizations have an economic interest in lowering the number of accidents and providing a safe working environment
Legal Considerations
Every worker has legal right to safe working conditions under OH&S acts
The Occupational Health and Safety Act of Ontario, section 25(2)(h), requires an employer to “take every precaution reasonable in
the circumstances for the protection of a worker” (due diligence)
From legal perspective, due diligence is defined as the measure of prudence expected from, and ordinarily exercised by, a
reasonable and prudent person under the particular circumstances depending on the relative facts of the special case
-It is a standard of conduct measured by what could be expected of a reasonable person in same circumstances
-Requires a business to foresee all unsafe conditions or acts and requires it to take precautions to prevent accidents that can be
reasonably anticipated
-Similarly, workers are required to work in compliance with heath and safety legislation
Moral Considerations
Employers have a moral obligation to employees and their families to provide the safest working environment possible
Management commitment to health and safety results in higher levels of employee motivation to work safely and better
organizational safety records
Workers also have a moral responsibility to learn about safety and health, to follow recommended workplace practices, and to be
alert and responsible
The economic, human, and social costs associated with workplace injury and illness are intolerable, and both employers and
employees must work together to enhance occupational health and safety
Ontario was first province to enact compensation legislation with the passage of the Workmens Compensation Act (1914)
-Legislation provided lost-time wages to almost every injured worker, thereby removing right of workers to sue employers
Two main goals of legislation:
1. To ensure that injured workers received compensation and that employers accepted liability
2. To prevent accidents and illness by establishing safe work environments
As a result of continued improvement to health and safety legislation, the number of workplace accidents declined
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