What Does Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Mean?
Occupational health and safety (OHS) is a branch of public health aimed at improving workplace health and safety standards. It studies injury and illness trends in the worker population and offers suggestions for mitigating the risks and hazards they encounter on the job.
Every occupation has health or safety risks associated with it, and it is every employer’s responsibility to ensure that their employees can carry out their work as safely as possible.
Safeopedia Explains Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)
The field of occupational health and safety sets standards to mandate the elimination, mitigation, or substitution of jobsite hazards. OHS programs also include processes and procedures to minimize the consequences of workplace incidents.
Occupational health and safety is a very broad umbrella. It covers not only first aid provisions and the safe operation of heavy machinery, but also infection prevention, ergonomic best practices, and methods for responding to workplace violence.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act
In December of 1970, President Richard Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act into law, becoming the first far-reaching federal law to protect American workers. Soon after, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established to ensure the proper and thorough implementation of the law.
OSHA not only enforces occupational health and safety standards, but continuously updates those standards in light of new research findings and best practices.
How to Stay Safe on the Job
Some of the topics covered by OHS include the following:
- Appropriate use of PPE - It is the employer's responsibility to ensure that workers have the personal protective equipment required to work safely. Depending on the job and work environment, this can include fall protection devices, hard hats, high-visibility clothing, or safety gloves.
- Safe operation of the work equipment - Safety procedures ensure that employees can use heavy machinery, power tools, and other work equipment with minimal risk of injury. This includes not only the appropriate handling of the equipment, but also regular inspections and maintenance to ensure that it functions optimally.
- Maintaining hydration - Since they are at work for extended periods of time, workers are at risk of dehydration if clean drinking water isn't provided for them. While this affects all workers, it is especially important for those who do intense physical labor, wear heavy PPE, or work in high-heat environments.
- Good bodily movements - Musculoskeletal disorders are an extremely common type of workplace injury. To prevent them, workers need to follow ergonomic best practices. This includes safe lifting techniques, good posture, and avoiding repetitive motions while carrying out their work tasks.