The high speed of modern life aimed at improving productivity, intensity, and quality of work lead to the premature ageing of the human body, to the growth of the frequency of psychological and physical diseases, the number of industrial accidents along with occupational diseases. In this regard, the need for compliance with health and safety legislation of workers focused on preserving their health in the workplace becomes evident. This paper reflects two approaches concerning the above theme, in particular, strict punishment, including sanctions and enhancement of the self-awareness of employees resulting in the concise analysis of their benefits and disadvantages.
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The importance of health and safety legislation is determined by plenty of organizations and scholars. According to Taylor and Emir, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 forms “the cornerstone of the criminal arm of the health and safety law system” (2015, p. 470). First of all, it seems necessary to point out the principal objectives of any company in the field of health and safety at work:
- ensuring healthy and safe working conditions for employees;
- providing the availability of reliable information about occupational safety and health in the company;
- raising the level of responsibility of each employee regardless of his profession or position;
- ensuring an appropriate level of competence in the field of occupational health and safety by providing high-quality training;
- permanent improvement of workplace safety through the introduction of new technologies and the use of modern means of individual protection;
- continuous improvement of occupational safety and health management system in order to maintain it in a form corresponding to the current needs of society.
Therefore, the enforcement of rules, procedures, criteria, and standards established by the labour legislation procures the preservation of life and health of workers in the workplace.
In their turn, employees are required to:
- comply with the requirements of health and safety legislation;
- utilize means of individual and collective protection;
- be trained according to appropriate methods and techniques for safe execution of work and provision of first aid in the workplace, instructions on occupational safety training in the workplace, and verification of knowledge;
- immediately notify the manager of every accident that occurred in the workplace that threatens life and health;
- mandatorily undergo preliminary and periodic medical examinations as well as medical check-ups as per employer’s request (Griffith, & Howarth, 2014).
Violations of the health and safety legislation not only entail the administrative responsibility of the employer and the particular attention of the supervisory authority but also, most importantly, increase the risk of injury and even death of workers.
Established Standards and Implementing Harsh Punishment as a Means of Health and Safety Legislation Security
The first approach is related to enforcement. In order to ensure the compliance of the health and safety legislation, plenty of organizations apply the economic sanctions to employees based on regulatory requirements of the labour legislation. Violation of health and safety legislation could be considered as a violation of labour discipline. For instance, for a disciplinary offence that is the non-performance or improper performance of work duties of an employee assigned to him, the employer might use the following disciplinary sanctions: observation, reprimand, and dismissal. Disciplinary responsibility involves the imposition of disciplinary sanctions on workers provided by the internal labour regulations (Backhouse, 2013).
Taking into account the gravity of the offence, circumstances of its commission as well as the previous behaviour of the employee, the employer chooses the corresponding recovery. The refusal or evasion of medical examination without the valid excuse and the employee’s refusal to perform during working hours of special training or examinations of labour protection are considered a violation of labour discipline. In addition, the employee is subject to criminal liability in the case if the act negligently caused grave or medium-gravity damage to human health resulting in human death or other grave consequences in case of accidents, fires, and other incidents (Branson, 2015). It shows the greatest extent of the possible punishment.
Consequently, legal means to enhance health and safety at work include specific legislative and normative acts while a special role is given to the labour law. Regulating sources for preventive supervision are standards of safety, sanitary, and other regulations. Among the most important measures promoting health and safety legislation, there are requirements concerning safe work practices. Besides, periodic medical examinations provide health surveillance and detection of early warning signs of diseases. Thus, regulatory requirements are essential in the creation of healthy and safe working conditions.
Encouraging Self-reliance to Monitor and Enhance Safety in the Workplace
The second approach of encouraging seems to be more humanistic. It consists of the majority techniques aimed at enhancement of employees’ self-awareness of the health and safety legislation.
The scientific and technical progress that opens up new possibilities for improving occupational safety and health, creating healthy and safe working conditions and allowing eliminating occupational injuries and diseases is of great importance. In spite of the fact that the progress of science and technology might be a new dangerous and harmful production factor that would pose new challenges connected with labour protection, it is very significant to acquaint employees with it by means of training (Papadopoulos, Georgiadou, Papazoglou, & Michaliou, 2010).
In this connection, the employer or manager should convince workers of the need for security measures, to help them in the development of a conscious attitude to rules and regulations, to get interested in the implementation of corresponding activities, in other words, to promote the compliance with health and safety legislation (Hughes & Ferrett, 2016).
The structural elements of employees’ training and reliance system include the following information facility: sources, methods, institutions, information, and technical tools; media instruments brochures, memos, posters, instructions, and requirements. All the components are interconnected. Training methods should be based on methods and techniques of explanation of the influence on the consciousness, feelings, and actions in order to develop a culture of safety. The organizational forms of training might consist of lectures, seminars, or conferences.
Appropriate Balance between Enforcement and Encouragement
This part of the paper examines the advantages and disadvantages of each approach and points out the possible solution of their balanced compliance.
Among benefits of the enforcement approach, one might mention its high productivity conditioned by fear to lose a part of income and rigorous inspections. However, fear cannot provide the long-term success of the company and compliance with the health and safety legislation as all the employees would feel suppressed, and their enthusiasm for work would steadily decrease. As for the encouragement approach, it contributes to job satisfaction and good relationships within the company as well as to the ethics of the profession. Nevertheless, people tend to relax in such convenient conditions of work. That is why the employer cannot utilize only the approach of encouragement. As a result, it becomes apparent that the adequate balance of approaches would be the best decision.
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With the above analysis in mind, it seems appropriate to suppose the health and safety legislation promotion steps. In my point of view, both approaches are rather considered to achieve the essential goals of the company and the general welfare of employees. However, only their balanced application would contribute to success. Precisely speaking, I recommend educating and training employees, giving them some time to learn the required information and practice and check their knowledge by means of tests or oral examination. It should be stressed that the examination should clarify the knowledge of health and safety laws and regulations. After that, in the case of violation of the legislation, strict sanctions would be a justifiable measure of punishment.
In order to avoid violations, it is also important to inform employees of conditions changes and occupational safety and health in the workplace, the risk of damage to health, and their rights to compensation and personal protective equipment.
In conclusion, it should be emphasized that the health and safety legislation is a system of preservation of life and health of employees in the workplace that includes legal, socio-economic, organizational, technical, and other measures. It was stated that employees should possess the necessary amount of knowledge and its application in the workplace. In addition, it is necessary to apply adequate sanctions for those failing to meet the established standards.
Backhouse, J. (2013). Essential health and safety study skills. New York: Routledge.
Branson, D. (2015). An introduction to health and safety law. New York: Routledge.
Griffith, A., & Howarth, T. (2014). Construction health and safety management. New York: Routledge.
Hughes, P., & Ferrett, E. (2016). Introduction to international health and safety at work (6th ed.). New York: Routledge.
Papadopoulos, G., Georgiadou, P., Papazoglou, C., & Michaliou, K. (2010). Occupational and public health and safety in a changing work environment: An integrated approach for risk assessment and prevention. Safety Science, 48(8), 943-949.
Taylor, S., & Emir, A. (2015). Employment law (4th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.