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Occupational Health and Safety is multidisciplinary field of healthcare concerned with enabling
and individual to undertake their occupation; in a way that causes least harm to their health. The
scope of Occupational health and safety has evolve gradually and continuously in response to
social, political, technological and economic changes. What is Occupational Health and Safety?
Account for the evolution of this discipline in the Human Resource Management discourse.
Introduction to Occupational Health and Safety

Every business has safety risks. Occupational safety deals with all aspects of physical, mental
and social health and safety in a workplace. It is the umbrella for company’s efforts to prevent
injuries and hazards in all work environments. Every industry presents various kinds of safety
hazards to its employees. The spectrum of possible occupational safety risks ranges from severe
and immediate physical dangers to milder hazards. The more immediate cases can be fires,
explosions, chemical hazards or other such dangers that present an immediate threat to an
employee’s life. Milder hazards include challenges in ergonomics, workloads, mental capacity
and general well-being of employees. (Bjerkan, 2010).
The Concept of Occupational Health and Safety
Accident prevention is an essential part of good management and workmanship, Management
and workers must cooperate, Top management must take the lead, A define and known safety
and health policy, Organization and resources to achieve policy, and Best available knowledge
and methods (Archer, Borthwick, and Tepe, 2009).
Meaning of Occupational Health and Safety
Occupational safety & health is a condition in which an employee needs a work environment
that is safe and healthy for themselves and others who may be affected by its activities. It is a
basic human right for safety at workplace (Archer, Borthwick, and Tepe, 2009).
Historical Background of Occupation Safety and Health
Until 1970, there were no national laws for safety and health hazards. Several tragedies had
i. The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire in New York City killed 146 of 500
ii. Production for World War I caused a crisis in work place safety and health conditions
iii. By the 1960’s, 14,000 workers died every year and more than 2.2 million workers were
not able to work from injuries and illnesses
Eras of Occupational Safety and Health
The Era of Boiler Safety-Before 1914
Around 1890’s Perak state government elected a personnel expertise in steam boiler and was
given a license as boiler surveyor The era of machinery safety-1914 to1962. On 1 January 1914,
all the steam boiler enactments was replaced with ‘Machinery Enactment´.The inspector inspects
the steam boiler and any other machinery such as internal combustion engine, water turbine and
any other auxiliary installation involved
The era of industrial safety-1953 to 1967
All the machinery enactment used before1953 was then replaced with Ordinal 1953. The role of
an inspector has expanded from only inspecting the steam boiler to the safety of workers in
factories that uses machinery The era of industrial safety and health-1970 to 1994. Akta Kilang
dan Jentera’ (Factories and Machinery Act ) 1970was approved by the parliaments. To solve all
the shortcoming of the Machine Ordinal 1953, as the workers in a workplace without machine
previously are now being protected under the new Acts.
The era of occupational safety and health-1994 onwards
Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) was enacted in 1994. FMA 1967 emphasis on
safety while OSHA 1994emphasis on addressing health hazards in the workplace (Archer,
Borthwick, and Tepe, 2009).

Importance of Occupational Safety and Health

Occupational safety creates new opportunities
Instead of just seeing occupational safety as hazards and costs which should be controlled and
limited, another viewpoint is to embrace it as an untapped opportunity. Instead of only wanting
to hear reports of already occurred injuries and fatalities, he wanted employees to give out
suggestions and ideas how to improve safety. And that eventually changed the whole company
culture and employees started to also share their other improvement ideas. Alcoa ended up
notably increasing its profits based on ideas that came from their employees. (Frick, et al 2000).
Occupational safety affects company goodwill and productivity
We are also living in an era when anyone can update their social media profiles of bad
management experiences or post a review of the company to Glassdoor.com. No company
should want a possible future recruit to read online that the workplace is not investing in
occupational safety. It might soon lead to a situation where the HR department receives less and
fewer applications from good candidates.
It is evident that even the smallest acts of not taking care of employees' health and safety are a
huge concern for companies both big and small. But the concern should not initially come from
complaints in social media. Willingness and interest to invest in occupational safety should strive
from a sincere interest in employees’ safety and health and therefore also company’s
productivity and growth. This again can be turned into a huge asset in improving employee
retention and hiring the best people. (Frick, et al 2000).

Evolution of Occupational Safety and Health Field in Human Resource Management


In the early 1900s, Human Resource Management played a minor or non-existent role in most
workplaces. Primary duties of Human Resource Management staff were clerical, and may have
included hiring and terminating and/or benefits administration. Thirty years later, at the
conclusion of the Great Depression, laws were passed to ensure minimum wages, employment
insurance, and the right to belong to unions. As a direct result, legal compliance became a major
focus of Human Resource Management.

Currently, Human Resource Management is in a shifting paradigm. This means that through
history, there were distinctive phases that Human Resource Management went through to arrive
where it stands today. Changes do not happen overnight. That is certainly the case for the
changes that Human Resource Management has undergone since the early 1900s. Human
Resource Management is undergoing a large-scale shift currently. It is moving from a somewhat
narrowly defined role to a diverse field that encompasses everything from clerical functions to
helping companies achieve objectives through comprehensive human capital strategies.
(Baugher, & Roberts, 1999)
Occupation Health and Safety in Human Resource Management
Health and Safety initiatives are part of a strategic approach to Human Resource Management.
No longer just a “thing” that companies have to comply with, health and safety is being used as
part of a company’s overall strategy for talent retention, overall objectives, and loss-time
Consider the benefits of loss-time prevention: the most obvious benefit is to the bottom line.
Healthy employees are productive employees, and productive employees have very positive
effects on the company’s bottom line. When employees start to feel that their work is unsafe or
that their employers does not care about their health or well-being, productivity may start to slip.
Witnessing injuries, or having to cover jobs while other workers are out injured can also impact
productivity; as well as morale and retention. (Borys, (2000).

Investment in health and safety programs, including disability management, proactive health and
wellness programs, preventative measures, and a sound on-boarding and training program,
produces quantifiable bottom-line returns. By using health and safety to prevent loss-times
injuries and keep productivity at a premium, companies are using health and safety programs to
help achieve overall goals and objectives. (Borys, 2000).

Not only can health and safety be a part of a company’s overall success strategy, but it can also
be used as a tool for talent retention. Employee health, safety, and wellness management are
important determinants of employee perceptions regarding fair treatment by the organization. In
fact, a bountiful and comprehensive wellness program can be a powerful incentive for new talent
to strive to work for your company, as well as a strong retention tool. Health, safety, and
wellness programs can include anything from training and education opportunities, subsidized
gym memberships, nutrition counselling, and/or an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). What
is included in a health and wellness program is limited only by the imagination (and funding) of
the organization.
Now more than ever, Human Resource Management and health and safety are being integrated.
That is why it’s becoming more urgent that Human Resource professionals have a sound and
working knowledge of health and safety principles, program administration, and legislation. It is
beneficial to everyone – the company as a whole, the Human Resource professionals, and the
Archer, R., Borthwick, K. and Tepe, S. (2009). OH&S: A Management Guide.2nd Edition.
South Melbourne: Cengage Learning.
Baugher, J.E. and Roberts, T.M. (1999).Perceptions and worry about hazards at work: unions,
contract maintenance and job control in the US petrochemical industry. Industrial
Relations, 38, 522-541.
Bjerkan, A.M. (2010). Health, environment, safety culture and climate - analysing the
relationships to occupational accidents. Australia University Press.
Borys, D. (2000). Seeing the wood from the trees: a systems approach to OH&S management. In
Pearse, W., Gallagher, C. and Bluff, E. (eds.). Occupational Health and Safety
Management Systems: Proceedings of the First National Conference, 151-172. Sydney:
Crown Content.
Frick, K., Jensen, P.L., Quinlan, M. and Wilthagen, T. (2000). Systematic Occupational Health
and Safety Management: Perspectives on an International Development. Oxford:
Elsevier Science Ltd.