Module 1 – Fundamental issues pertaining to occupational safety, health and environment

After completing this module, the learner will be able to discuss fundamental issues pertaining to occupational safety, health and environment, by successfully completing the following:

  • Explain the fundamental issues pertaining to occupational safety in the workplace
  • Explain the fundamental issues pertaining to occupational health in the workplace in terms of specified requirements
  • Explain the fundamental issues pertaining to the environment according to specified requirements

Occupational safety and health (OSH) is generally defined as the science of the anticipation, recognition, evaluation and control of hazards arising in or from the workplace that could impair the health and well-being of workers, taking into account the possible impact on the surrounding communities and the general environment.

This domain is necessarily vast, encompassing a large number of disciplines and numerous workplace and environmental hazards. A wide range of structures, skills, knowledge and analytical capacities are needed to coordinate and implement all of the “building blocks” that make up national OSH systems so that protection is extended to both workers and the environment.

The scope of occupational safety and health has evolved gradually and continuously in response to social, political, technological and economic changes. In recent years, globalization of the world’s economies and its repercussions have been perceived as the greatest force for change in the world of work, and consequently in the scope of occupational safety and health, in both positive and negative ways. Liberalization of world trade, rapid technological progress, significant developments in transport and communication, shifting patterns of employment, changes in work organisation practices, the different employment patterns of men and women, and the size, structure and life cycles of enterprises and of new technologies can all generate new types and patterns of hazards, exposures and risks.

Demographic changes and population movements, and the consequent pressures on the global environment, can also affect safety and health in the world of work.

From: Fundamental Principles of Occupational Health and Safety, Benjamin O. Alli

Recent data from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that in sub-Saharan Africa, the fatality rate per 100,000 workers is 21 and the accident rate 16,000. This means that each year 54,000 workers die and 42 million work-related accidents take place that cause at least three days’ absence from work.

None of these individuals left home with the intent to injure themselves or to be killed in some industrial accident. Their primary goal was to actively participate in the economy and the assumed that all the fundamental issues pertaining to health and safety were well provided for by their employer and fellow workers!

Getting a clear understanding of the fundamental (or underlying) principles of safety may just mean that you would enjoy the choice between an incident free working life, or one filled with loss and pain and even death.