As we are fast approaching the festive season you might have noticed that employees become complacent, distracted, negligent and for the lack of a better word, “silly” resulting in misconduct.
So what are the occupational Health and Safety risks associated with the Silly season, and what can the organization implement to ensure that these types of risks are prevented?
Firstly we need to gain better understanding as to what horseplay really is. Horseplay can refer to any unsafe act that is caused by an individual and usually goes hand in hand with “it’s all in the name of fun” or “don’t be so serious”. These unsafe acts include but are not limited to:
Damage of company property
Intoxication (Year-end functions, Team Building)
Poor vehicle operation
Unsafe Acts as a result of fooling around.
Did you for example know that if a compressor is directed at the mouth, the pressurized air can rupture the lungs or that sounding an air horn close to the ear can cause an eardrum to rupture?
Upon investigation it was identified that most incidents associated with horseplay were not conduct deliberately and consequences of actions might have seemed miniscule or harmless at the time, however previous cases have shown that often criminal prosecution is the outcome of these incidents. This means that employees can be held liable for damages or injuries even if the intent was of no harm. Other than the obvious workplace injuries, horseplay can boil over into internal quarrelling, division amongst employees and loss of production time which can in turn effect the organisations bottom line.
Any effective OHS system should make provision for a preventative procedure to ensure that during the last couple of months of the year, employees are monitored and that safe practises are first priority. So where do we start?
1. Know your ACT:
More specifically the Occupational Health & Safety Act (85 of 1993) as well as the Labour Relations Act, as this will assist greatly in guiding the organisation to safety.
OHSA 14 - General duties of employees at work
Every employee shall at work-
(a) Take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions;
(b) As regards any duty or requirement imposed on his employer or any other person by this Act, co-operate with such employer or person to enable that duty or requirement to be performed or complied with;
(c)carry out any lawful order given to him, and obey the health and safety rules and procedures laid down by his employer or by anyone authorized thereto by his employer, in the interest of health or safety;
(d)if any situation which is unsafe or unhealthy comes to his attention, as soon as practicable report such situation to his employer or to the health and safety representative for his workplace or section thereof, as the case may be, who shall report it to the employer; and if he is involved in any incident which may affect his health or which has caused an injury to himself, report such incident to his employer or to anyone authorized thereto by the employer, or to his health and safety representative, as soon as practicable but not later than the end of the particular shift during which the incident occurred, unless the circumstances were such that the reporting of the incident was not possible, in which case he shall report the incident as soon as practicable thereafter.
(e) if he is involved in any incident which may affect his health or which has caused an injury to himself, report such incident to his employer to anyone authorized thereto by the employer, or to his health and safety representative, as soon as practicable but not later than the end of the particular shift during which the incident occurred, unless the circumstances were such that the reporting of the incident was not possible, in which case he shall report the incident as soon as possible thereafter.
Discuss the behaviour that is expected to all staff, this includes risks associated with the topic as well as any additional training that may be required to ensure that management has done everything as far as reasonably practicable to bring the message across loud and clear.
3. Implement & Enforce:
There should always be a consequence for non-adherence and therefor your OHS company rules and disciplinary code is crucial, make sure employees are reprimanded as soon as the incident or non-conformance is identified and that they are redirected as to what the correct behaviour or procedure is.
4. Ongoing Observation
Ensure that the Health & Safety team actively participates in rapidly identifying the “class clowns” on an ongoing/daily basis. Immediate action is required as will prove to be the effective.
5. Lastly, HAVE FUN. Ensure that employees have team building or gatherings that will allow them to blow off steam and connect with their peers in a healthy and safe manner.
Prevention is and always be better than cure, identify, reprimand and rectify and you will have an efficient and effective Occupational Health and Safety System that ensures that all stakeholders go home healthy and safe.
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