Module 1.2 – Explain the fundamental issues pertaining to occupational health in the workplace in terms of specified requirements

Occupational hygiene is the science of the anticipation, recognition, evaluation and control of hazards arising in or from the workplace, and which could impair the health and well-being of workers, also taking into account the possible impact on the surrounding communities and the general environment.

Definitions of occupational hygiene may be presented in different ways; however, they all have essentially the same meaning and aim at the same fundamental goal of protecting and promoting the health and well-being of workers, as well as protecting the general environment, through preventive actions in the workplace.

We all benefit from a healthy workforce. Employers see lower workers’ compensation insurance premiums; higher productivity and morale often result. And when workers are healthier, so are their families. Society bears a smaller burden of general health care costs supporting persons with preventable disabilities, chronic illnesses, and injuries. A healthy workforce benefits society’s moral, economic, and overall well-being.

There are multiple health hazards at home and in the workplace that overlap.

For example:

  • Stress that results from work can intrude into our family lives and vice versa.
  • Eating nutritious foods makes for a healthier, more productive workforce, yet access to healthy foods is often difficult in the workplace.
  • Chemical exposures on the job can be brought home inadvertently on work clothes and expose family members.

These points of intersection suggest that our health cannot be fully addressed if we ignore either area of our lives. We may have an excellent opportunity in the workplace to influence overall worker health by addressing not just workplace hazards, but also general health issues. At the same time, ignoring workplace hazards in favour of individual health factors is not effective in addressing overall health.

There are a number of ways to promote good health. Wellness programs and OHS programs employ a variety of activities and policies to prevent injury and illness and promote healthy behaviours.

The specified requirements relating to the issues pertaining to occupation health in the workplace would include legal and site-specific requirements and are contained in one or more of the following categories of documentation:

  • Legal requirements in pertinent sections of legislation – including associated regulations – and other supporting documentation related to:
    • Occupational health, safety and environment
    • Mandatory codes of practice
    • Safety standards
  • Site Specific requirements would include:
    • Hazard identification and risk assessments (HIRA)
    • Occupational Health and Safety Risk Management Programme
    • Managerial Instructions
    • Occupational health and safety standards
    • List of recorded occupation health and safety risks
    • Safe work procedures
    • Equipment and materials specifications

In this section we will explore the fundamental issues that pertain to occupational health in the workplace in terms of specified legal and site specific requirements.

Although some companies may employ an occupational hygienist, have a clinic and provide facilities for health care to employees within the company, most companies do not have these health services on site but would have access to professional health services from an external source for some of the health and safety issues mentioned above. Companies must, however, comply with the requirements of  OHSA in terms of providing all persons with a healthy and safe work environment and obtain the services of an external occupational hygienist or clinic when necessary.

1.2.1 Legislative requirements

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) requires employers to provide a safe and healthy environment for employees.

OHSA requirements are supported by several regulations and codes of practice that provide employers with guidelines on how the management health and safety issues. These regulations[1] include:

  • Asbestos Regulations, 2001
  • Hazardous Biological Agent Regulations, 2001
  • Hazardous Chemical Substances Regulations, 1995
  • Lead Regulations, 2001
  • Noise Induced Hearing Loss Regulations, 2003
  • Environmental Regulations for Workplaces, 1987
  • Facilities Regulations, 1990
  • General Administrative Regulations, 2003
  • General Safety Regulations, 1986
  • Electrical Installation Regulations, 2009
  • Electrical Machinery Regulations, 1988
  • Driven Machinery Regulations, 2015
  • General Machinery Regulations, 1988
  • Lift, Escalator and Passenger Conveyor Regulations, 1994
  • Pressure Equipment Regulations, 2009
  • Construction Regulations, 2014
  • Explosives Regulations, 2003
  • Major Hazard Installation Regulations, 1993

 Several codes of practice (COP) have been promulgated under other acts to provide companies with guidelines on how to handle specific occupational hygiene issues e.g.