Regulatory Damnation 35: Health and Safety

Health and Safety, generally referred to as Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) or Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) in North America, refers to regulations and regulatory management concerned with the safety, health, and welfare of employees, be they full time, part time, contingent, day labourer, or unpaid intern. In an advanced organization, it’s a key component of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) as the health and welfare of any person doing any task for the organization is a key concern of any responsible organization.

So why is this a damnation? Is this not only the right thing to do but something you want to do as an injured or unwell employee is not productive? It’s a damnation because in some countries of the world, it’s becoming a regulatory nightmare. And not only is failure to comply with the regulations, some of which may go beyond common sense, a huge fine, but if someone gets injured and your organization failed to comply with the regulations, in some countries (and the United States in particular) that’s a million-plus lawsuit waiting to happen.

It’s a massive risk management activity that often adds very little value to the organization.

First, you need to either have your lawyer spend cycles researching all relevant OSH laws to your business at the municipal, state, and federal levels and make sure you are fully compliant, or shell out thousands upon thousands (upon thousands) of dollars to an expert OSH law firm that will provide you a list of all regulations you need to adhere to, minimum requirements, and example programs.

Then you need to identify all hazards of the

  • physical and mechanical variety
    and make sure all personnel have the appropriate safety gear and safety training and supervision if they are new to the task
  • biological and chemical variety
    and make sure all personnel have the appropriate safety gear, training, and supervision and make sure that the risk of exposure is minimized as much as it can be (and only qualified, certified personnel are allowed in the lab where the deadly virii are kept)
  • psychosocial variety
    and make sure all personnel are kept as far away from them as possible (which may mean keeping the CEO away from general assemblies, as he* is likely a psychopath)

Then you need to document your research, your policies, your training methods, your enforcement methods, and your regular review activities in case the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) or its equivalent comes knocking at your door (as the result of complaints, injury, and/or lawsuits).

And if you’re in Procurement, not only do you have to worry about the safety and health of your employees (who might have to travel to dangerous regions for site visits of what could be danger-ridden factories), but of your supplier’s employees as well. If their practices aren’t up to par and a major disaster happens at one of their facilities, it’s your corporate brand that is going to take the hit when the dust settles and multiple worker’s rights group are quick to point out the failings in your supply chain.

It’s yet another time-sucking task that should be easy and obvious but isn’t thanks to mountains of legislation and suppliers who care more about money than people.

* Most CEOs are men. It’s probably because (considerably) more men than women have been diagnosed as psychopaths. (If most CEOs are psychopaths and most psychopaths are men, then we have a logical explanation for why most CEOs are men outside of sexism.)