Workplace health and safety: In Queensland (Australia)

Effective health and safety in the working places is very essential in successful running of a business.  Ensuring that employees have the correct working environment forms the main recipe for their effective production and overall sustainability of an enterprise.  This has been necessitated by the policies frameworks and ethical demands that indicate intrinsic consideration of the employees and staff by the management and authorities (Barling, Loughlin, and Kelloway, 2002).  Application of management’s policies, strategic plans and enforcement of change being entirely dependent on the staff and employees for success, it is important to accord them the best operation platform for the same goals realization.

The demand for safety in the workplaces has risen drastically since the onset of the industrial revolution prompting strict policies and regulations to guard the sanctity and integrity of the people. This essay explores Work Place Health and Safety in Queensland Australia and their effectiveness in addressing various hazards in the region.  Besides, it evaluates the present policies and legislative framework of Queensland in ensuring that the workers are fully safeguarded during their work.

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Background of OH&S in Queensland

Queensland is a state in Australia that occupies the North Eastern area of the continent.  It is the second largest state with a population of about 4.3 million by the year 2007 which represent about 20% of the total Australian population.  Like other states, the region’s work place health and safety demands are guided by the central government’s provisions.  Notably, the state is classified among those that have effective work place and health safety measures in Australia.  Under the Occupational Health and Safety legislation in Australia, the state has its own principle Occupational Health and Safety act that spells out the demand and standards for different groups and establishments in effecting the best working environments for the employees (Probst, 2004).

It gives a clear framework and a cooperative system that organizations’ managements are required to follow and maintain in order to guarantee the best operating environment for growth. Particularly, the management of all establishments is required to ensure that they provide safe premises for workers operations.  Besides, machineries and substances are required to be totally safe for the employees to work with.  In addition, information, instruction, and training should be given to the staff and the employees to keep them equipped with all the necessary skills for addressing emergencies for saving their lives and properties.  It is no doubt that the state has a very high value for human life a notion that has gone a long way in enhancing its last two decades tremendous growth in the country.

Selected activities on OH;S

As indicated earlier, Queensland has set its own Occupational Health and Safety guiding policy that dictates its operations in seeking the best operating environment for the state.  Over the years, the Workplaces Health and Safety Act of 1995 has been used in Queensland to integrate into the management the best practices and systems that are necessary for maintaining the working place environment above the minimum standards.  Therefore, it employs the following systems;

l  Risk management approaches that are incorporated as part of the daily running of the business.

l  Consultative mechanisms between the employee’s and management in addressing different health and safety issues.

l   Provision of capacity building systems programs and supervision that assist in identifying and eliminating any hazard present in the work place environments.

l   Besides cooperating with the firms’ management in establishing the best methods of addressing the rising levels of new hazard, it keeps the workplaces occupational health and safety information for review at various instances to evaluate the progress in the state.

Research process

This research will be mainly based on the available literature to give it the ability to evaluate more information regarding Queensland application of the Occupational Health and Safety measures.  With closer evaluation of the available policies and regulations in the state, the research will look into various organizations and how they effect the same policies in the state.  Besides, it will explore the implications of the policies demands in organizations management and establish possible problems that they encounter during their application.  Notably, the paper will use human resource management theories and principles of enhancing productivity in the work place and derive recommendations for the problems that Queensland’s firms face in balancing the management to get higher productivity and the demands for ideal environment for the workers (Office of the Queensland Parliamentary Counsel, 2009).

Part B:

Analysis

l  HRM literature evaluation

Over the last decade, Queensland human resources managers for different industries have had to comply with different requirements of the state in provision of the required standards for the employees at their work places.  As indicated earlier, work place safety is one of the most important steps in achieving greater productivity from the employees.  Though most of the Human resources viewed the demands for workplace health and safety provision as part of an added expense, the ideology has been assimilated by majority of the sectors and improved the overall working condition for the employees (Cooper and Phillips, 2004).  However, a large percentage have not assimilated the system up to the require standards by the rules and policies in the state.  Besides, the levels of cooperation between the government and most of the firms has been very low, a pointer that has been cited to indicate non compliance.

(a) Health sector

Provision of safe workplace environment is possibly most important with reference to the health sector.  Health employees are usually exposed to different infections as they attend to the patients.  This is a major health risk in that most of the diseases are highly contagious and can affect them and their families (World Health Organization, 2002).  They are also exposed to highly reactive dangerous chemicals.  Notably, high tech research institutions in major hospitals of Queensland involve use of highly reactive chemicals that are equally harmful to the researchers and the medical experts.  Employees in radiotherapy sections are exposed to high radiations that may have long term negative effects on their health (Hegney, Plank, and Parker, 2003).  To effectively address these problems, Human Resources management should understand the major implications of working in the health sector.  As indicated by the new Work Place Health and Safety regulations of 2008, it is clear that human resources managers are supposed to ensure that they provide the most effective methods for ensuring workers are completely safe in their work places.

According to Part Sixteen Section 198-203, all the chemicals and hazardous substances that health centers use should be accompanied by the necessary protective precautions well indicated on their seals.  The Act also requires that all the employees be given the correct attire that prevents them from getting various contagious diseases.  As provided for by the act, new health establishments should be assessed before licenses are issued to guarantee that they comply with the legislation.  In Part Two of the same act, the design of institutions such as hospitals and health centers are supposed to be approved to ensure that they give the correct space for its activities effectively.  It also provides for monitoring of the health facilities by occupational health and safety officers to ascertain that all the regulations are adhered to.

(b) Construction industry

Currently, Queensland is one of the fastest growing states in Australia and with major construction industries positioning themselves at the heart of the state.  Workers in construction sites are generally exposed to high noise levels of the heavy machinery which have negative acrostic effects to them (Wangyal, 2001).  Besides, they are also exposed to excess lights especially in the welding sections.  This may cause temporary or permanent sight losses to them.  They are also exposed to high dust levels which may have cancerous effects to their upper respiratory systems.  Lifting of heavy materials may also induce spinal cord problems.

The government of Queensland policy on building industry has established the Queensland code of Practice of the building and construction industry.  Under this code of conduct, the behavior and ethics for the management is outlined for ensuring maximum safety during construction operations.  To add to that, the Work Place Health and Safety regulations of 2008 requires that constructions be certified by the government authorities to verify that machineries are not dangerous to the workers.  Human resources management should provide the necessary attire that assists in reducing light, sound, and dust levels in the working sites (Office of the Queensland Parliamentary Counsel, 2009).  Most importantly, the workers are supposed to be taken through inclusive training of how they are supposed to operate without causing harm to themselves and the businesses assets.

(c) Hotel industry

Many hotel industry workers have suffered in their operations as the management focuses more on the outlook.  In most of the hotels, chefs and cooks are exposed to high temperatures that are harmful to their bodies especially with long term exposure (Gemmell, 2001).  Though most of the hotels are shifting to the modern forms of energy, about 90% of them still have the traditional forms of fuel being in use (Department of Industrial Relations Workplace Health and Safety, 2003).  This makes the employees to be exposed to great risks of upper respiratory infections from the carbon compounds.  To add to that, most of the workers especially the waiters spend over 80% of their working sessions standing as they serve the consumers.  This is extremely tiring and may cause poor flow of blood in their systems.

Ethically, the human resources management should be able to provide the correct rotational systems to reduce physical and psychological suffering for the workers.  Besides, they should establish the correct systems for less operation hours especially for the waiters and install new machineries that are less harmful to the cooks.

l  Organizations’ problems in addressing the problems

(a) Cost

Though many organizations have been willing to effect the demands of different rules and regulations, it is clear that cost is a major prohibiting factor.  Human resources for most industries in Queensland indicate that thorough preventative systems are costly to buy, install, and maintain (Lamm and Walters, 2004).  In the hotel industry, installation of electric cookers may be the best system to reduce the effects of smoke and heat to the staff.  However, such machineries are costly and consume vast quantities of electricity and therefore unsustainable to maintain.  In the construction industry, enclosed automated mixers for ballast and machinery silencers are very costly especially for the small construction companies.

(b) Expertise and time

Arguably, most of the occupational health and safety demands are oriented towards training and capacity building as a major building block for sustainable safety.  The Work Place Health and Safety Regulations of  2008 provides for periodical training of staff and employees. This operation is conducted by certified occupational health and safety officers who not only add cost to the production process, but may delay projects from commencements.  Human resources management considers time lost to be very costly and unrecoverable (Zohar, 2002).  Besides, organizations management may be required to employ other officers to act as experts in ensuring that the required operations of machinery or particular systems are fully operational without causing any negative effect.

(c) Compensations from work injuries

According to the Work Place Health and Safety regulations of 2008, it is the employees’ human rights to get the correct compensation of any injuries or harm that they get in the work places.  However, even after provision with the necessary training and the correct attire, most of the work injuries take place due to employees’ carelessness.  Even in such cases, the companies are still held responsible for the employees harm and forced to pay for the harm (Zohar and Luria, 2005).

Legislative and policy framework on the state

As indicated earlier, Queensland have laws in all the departments to ensure that workers operate in the best environment possible.  In 1995, the Workplace Health and Safety Act was established and reviewed in the year 2008.  Notably this legislation is the main operating framework for determining the workplace standards of environment.  Under this act, a cohesive framework to be used by organization’s management is established with health and safety obligations be adhered to.  Therefore, human resources managers use this as the main guideline for developing internal standards in their organizations.

Besides, the act established a health and safety board that is responsible with encouraging participation by human resources managers and workers in developing better systems of addressing issues affecting workers in the work places. To add to that, it provides for workers representatives from different organizations to bring the correct feedback on application of rules at the employees level.  This notion has especially been effective in giving correct information as it reduces possible compromises by supervisors and people in managerial positions.

Of greater effect of the policy is the provision for training, monitoring and punitive measures.  This assists to ensure that the correct standards are not only understood, but intrinsically conceptualized by organizations’ management and workers.  Particularly, the emphasis of the high risk operations close monitoring and tougher rules indicates the weight that government puts on its people.  Though most of the human resources view these as part of the extra cost that can easily be shed off, it is wrong and law should be used to punish non compliance.

Conclusion and recommendations

Occupational health and safety is the most important aspect in any business establishment.  The current laws in Queensland should be applied with greater emphasis to ensure that all the employers comply with them and guarantee the best operating environment to the workers.  As indicated above most of the firms cry foul of the high cost associated with meeting the required standards.  However, success of a business is measured using a multiplicity of factors including motivation and satisfaction of the employees on the work they do.  To ensure that the working environment is improved in Queensland, human resources management should operate closely with the government to establish better methods of applying the same rules and regulations.  Besides, the government should enforce better monitoring systems that guarantee compliance with the demands of the policy at all cost (Goldenhar, Williams, and Swanson, 2003).  Finally, organizations should seek to educate the employees and the public on their working rights to enable easier reporting mechanisms and effective countermeasures.

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