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Literature Review: Theories of Occupational Health and Safety Essay

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Updated: Apr 6th, 2019

The field of occupational health and safety is evolving very rapidly because of developments in the related fields such as human psychology. As social scientists develop new theories to explain human behavior, application disciplines such as occupational health and safety update their methods in order to concur with the latest findings.

The La_Camera restaurant, along with other businesses and companies, has legal and moral responsibilities to ensure that the workplace is safe for the workers. As a restaurant, several risks may compromise the safety of the employees working in the restaurant.

This paper examines the theories and perspectives related to occupational health and safety in the context of the La_Camera restaurant.

In discussing occupational health and safety, many scholars fall into the trap of focusing only on “injury”, at the expense of discussing “occupational illness and disease”.1

This comes from the fact that it is easier to recognize injuries at the workplace such as cuts, bruises, and fractures compared to work related illnesses and diseases. Illnesses and diseases take time to develop hence it may not always be possible to tie them to the working conditions.

However, it is a fact that there are diseases such as respiratory illnesses that come about because of workplace injuries.

One of the significant developments in the study of occupational health and safety was the shift from concentrating on the measures put in place by employers to the role of the employees in the safety of their working environment.

Employee behavior does play a major role in “the occurrence of occupational injury and illness”.2 This focus led to the development of programs that concentrated on employee behavior, aimed at behavior change. Currently, there is growing realization that concentrating on employee behavior alone does not achieve the full benefits possible in occupational health and safety programs.

Current occupational health and safety programs focus not just on the individual, but also on the Occupational Health and Safety “management systems and organizational culture”.3

In order to enforce occupational Health and Safety Standards, regulators used the “classical deterrence model”.4 It had two aspects. The first one was specific deterrence that tried to deal with specific offenders, while the other was general deterrence aimed at general offenders to discourage non-compliance.

The theory behind this model was that if there were a way to uncover offenders regularly, then it would make potential offenders less likely to break the safety codes. This model called for the use of punishment as a deterrent, with severity calculated to discourage non-offenders from becoming offenders.5

The theory assumed that if the cost of violation is much higher than the cost of compliance, then the possibility that people will comply willingly increases.

Organizational structures play an indirect role in the safety of workplaces.6 The reason for this is that they influence the speed with which occupational safety issues receive attention.

In organizations with clear-cut structures, and clear reporting structures, safety issues receive better attention and such organizations tend to have fewer incidents of accidents and occupational safety mishaps.7

However, other basic factors mediate the effectiveness of organizational structures hence they cannot guarantee high levels of workplace safety on their own.8 These factors include interpersonal relationships and attention to workplace safety codes.

Another theoretical framework with a strong influence on occupational health and safety is “responsive regulation”.9 Responsive regulation refers to strategies that have provisions for punishing offenders and persuades potential offenders not to violate regulatory provisions.

This theory stems from the realization that overreliance on “penal enforcement” only can lead to “regulatory resistance” from those who may have chosen to keep within the regulatory requirements.

If the only message practitioners get is that if you violate the regulatory requirements then you will receive punishment, the incentive to act willingly is lost.

At the same time, lacking a formal strategy of persuasion may lead to an informal system, which eventually will collapse due to lack of institutional based enforcement.10

In the matter of accident reporting, the behavior reasoning theory holds a lot of ground.11 This theory postulates that people tend to act based on their reasons. This means that many of the actions that people exhibit have clear reasons behind them.12

Therefore, to increase accident reporting, there is need to give the workers reason to do so. Workers may fail to report accidents for various reasons such as fear that the blame for the accident will fall on them, or that it may cost someone their job.13

On the other hand, workers may choose to report accidents if there is an associated reward scheme or if it will lead to some sort of credit. According to the behavior reasoning theory, it is imperative for employees to have many more reasons to report accidents that far outweigh the reasons they might harbor not to report the accident.

Based on these theories, it is interesting to evaluate how they compare with the occupational safety and health standards at the La_Camera Restaurant. As a restaurant the most obvious risks associated with working at the La Camera is burns associated with kitchen work, and waiting on customers.

Chefs face personal accident risks when cooking on the restaurants kitchen from the hotplates and gas stoves. Waiters are mostly at risk if they fall over hot food and drinks. In addition, they are at risk of scalding from hot steam from the cooking pots. Other risks at the restaurant include fracture and dislocation from falling due to spillage on the kitchen floor and the restaurant floor.

Broken glass and cutlery also poses a risk to the staff at the La_Camera Restaurant. The restaurant frequently handles broken glass and cutlery mostly because of accidents on the restaurant floor because of customers, but occasionally, it also deals with breakages in the kitchen and backrooms during routine handling.

Most of the measures at the La_Camera only address injuries at the workplace. They do not address longer-term illnesses that can result from working there. The Restaurant has a first aid kit and protocols for responding to the common injuries at the workplace.

However, health insurance is the only measure against long-term illness. There are no comprehensive solutions to problems such as allergies to certain foods and physical complications arising from spending long periods on foot when serving at the restaurant floor.

The Restaurant recognizes the role employees play in the general safety of the working place. It emphasizes on safety, and hygiene to ensure that the staff handles all the equipment in the best way possible.14

Shift supervisors check for thing like leaking gas, wet floors, the cleaning of broken glass and the disposal of waste that may result in injuries and illness. Whether these measures are part of a proactive occupational health and safety strategy or the result of looking for competitive advantage in the restaurant sector is difficult to prove.

The best illustration of the deployment of the classical deterrence model is in the requirement to report the occurrence of a spillage or breakage in the restaurant floor for immediate cleaning. The person waiting on a table is responsible for reporting the breakages and spillages that occur there. Failure to do it amounts to misconduct, and can lead to a negative reference.

The role that the organizational structure plays is that the shift supervisor is the one responsible for the most safety issues that occur at the restaurant. They take the decisions relating to the measures required to remedy the situation.

The restaurant is not very strong on responsive regulation because there are not clear rewards for reporting accidents. Instead, there is a raft of penalties for causing or failing to respond to an accident. Accident reporting is always a dicey affair.15

For instance, if the breakage is the result of the employees, they face penalties. However, if the accident is the result of the actions of customers, the restaurant meets the cost. Therefore, there is a tendency to ascribe breakages and spillages to patrons.

Reference List

Amponsah-Tawaih, K & K Dartey-Baah, “Occupational Health and Safety: Key Issues and Concerns in Ghana,” International Journal of Business and Social Science, vol. 2, no. 14, pp. 119-126, 2010.

Bluff, E N Gunningham, & R Johnstone, OHS Regulation for a Changing World of Work, Federation Press, Sydney, 2004.

Bohle, P & M Quinlan, Managing Occupational Health and Safety: A Multidisciplinary Approach, Macmillan Educational AU, South Yarra, 2000.

Boucaut, R, “Understanding Workplace Bullying: A Practical Application of Giddens’ Structuration Theory,” International Education Journal, vol. 2, no. 4, 2001, pp. 65-73.

Burke, RJ, CL Cooper, & S Clarke, Occupational Health and Safety, Gower Publishing, Surrey, 2011.

Hudson, P, “Safety Management and Safety Culture: The Long, Hard and Winding Road,” in Proceedings of the National Conference on Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, Melbourne, pp. 3-32, 2001.

Jackson, N & DM Niblo, “Organizational behaviour and Adoption of OH&S Management Systems: Preliminary Findings,” in Proceedings of the First National Conference on Occupational health and Safety Management Systems, Melbourne, pp. 173-187, 2011.

Lingard, H & SM Rowlinson, Occupational Health and Safety in Construction Project Management, Taylor & Francis, Oxon, 2005.

Stellman, JM, Encyclopeadia of Occupational Health and Safety, International Labour Organization, Geneva, 1998.

Walters, D, K Frick, & R Johnstone, Regulation Workplace Risks: A Comparative Study of Inspection Regimes in Times of Change, Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, 2011. WHO, Declaration of Workers Health,

WHO Collaborating Centres of Occupational Health, Stresa, 2006.

Footnotes

1 P Bohle & M Quinlan, Managing Occupational Health and Safety: A Multidisciplinary Approach, Macmillan Educational AU, South Yarra, 2000, p.118.

2 H Lingard & SM Rowlinson, Occupational Health and Safety in Construction Project Management, Taylor & Francis, Oxon, 2005, p.136.

3 ibid

4 E Bluff, N Gunningham, & R Johnstone, OHS Regulation for a Changing World of Work, Federation Press, Sydney, 2004, p.151.

5 ibid

6 K Amponsah-Tawaih & K Dartey-Baah, “Occupational Health and Safety: Key Issues and Concerns in Ghana,” International Journal of Business and Social Science, vol. 2, no. 14, 2010, pp. 119-126.

7 JM Stellman, Encyclopeadia of Occupational Health and Safety, International Labour Organization, Geneva, 1998, p.1990.

8 P Hudson, “Safety Management and Safety Culture: The Long, Hard and Winding Road,” in Proceedings of the National Conference on Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, Melbourne, 2001, pp. 3-32.

9 D Walters, K Frick, & R Johnstone, Regulation Workplace Risks: A Comparative Study of Inspection Regimes in Times of Change, Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, 2011, p.57.

10 R Boucaut, “Understanding Workplace Bullying: A Practical Application of Giddens’ Structuration Theory,” International Education Journal, vol. 2, no. 4, 2001, pp. 65-73.

11 RJ Burke, CL Cooper, & S Clarke, Occupational Health and Safety, Gower Publishing, Surrey, 2011, p. 87.

12 ibid

13 ibid

14 N Jackson & DM Niblo, “Organizational behaviour and Adoption of OH&S Management Systems: Preliminary Findings,” in Proceedings of the First National Conference on Occupational health and Safety Management Systems, Melbourne, 2011, pp. 173-187.

15 WHO, Declaration of Workers Health, WHO Collaborating Centres of Occupational Health, Stresa, 2006.

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