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OHSAS 18000 - OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS

INTRODUCTION

Technological progress and increased industrialization have no meaning for people unless they are accompanied by social progress and improved quality of life. Rate of generation of wealth and creation of jobs is one indicator of industrialization and economic progress of a country. However, we should also consider the costs in terms of increased health hazards, accidents involving personal injuries, loss of life and property and degradation of environment to get true balance sheet. Increased incidence of industry related disasters and accidents has brought into focus the need to take concrete steps for preventing ill-effects of indiscriminate and uncontrolled industrialization, particularly in the sectors which carry higher costs in terms of Safety, Health and Environment (SHE). On account of greater social awareness of these issues in developed countries, there is an increasing trend to shift hazardous and environment degrading in industries to develop countries. In the short run, this may be perceived as beneficial effects of globalization by providing growth of industries, employment opportunities and alleviating poverty. But in the long term, it may cause widespread health problems, pollution of environment and fast depletion of natural resources. Though there has been some awareness about environmental problems resulting in appropriate legislation and strengthened enforcement by environmental groups and judicial activism, very little attention is being paid to Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) issues. Ironically, these hazards affect those who are themselves engaged in industrial activity which is supposed to bring prosperity to the nation.

We do not seem to have learnt much from mega disasters like Bhopal or Uphar cinema hall tragedies which shocked the conscience of the world.

While the developed countries have established comprehensive governmental mechanism to address OHS issues and are also promoting voluntary initiatives like Responsible Care (RC) with strong support from ILO, our industries and governmental agencies seem to have adopted fatalistic attitude and hardly any proactive steps are being taken in this area. Even our trade unions though forcefully advocating for worker's rights and perks, have hardly taken any initiative for taking preventive steps in this area which directly affect the safety and welfare of workers.

Therefore, there is a need for agencies like employers organizations and trade unions to get together on this issue of common interest to them for initiating steps to improve occupational health and safety performance in Indian industries. Fortunately, new concepts like occupational health and safety management system institutionalized by OHSAS 18001 have been developed which could provide a solid framework for OHS activities in our industries.

BACKGROUND DEVELOPMENT

During the Industrial Revolution, advance in technology introduced and increased the use of machinery and toxic materials in the workplace. As a result, workers in factories faced risks to their health and safety that were previously unheard of With profit being the main objectives of managers than, countless works suffered from the lack of safety and health measures.

Accidents, injuries and deaths often went unreported, as the labor supply was plentiful, and impaired or injured workers were simply replaced. Compensation to the employee or his family for injuries caused or death seldom happened. The pain and suffering that these people had to go through must have been excruciating, and hardly any form of legislation was present to address their grievances.

Health and safety Problems and hazards that workers face include the following:

· Poor working conditions
· Exposure to toxic materials or chemicals
· Long working hours
· Work-induced stress
· Excessive noise levels
· Risk to life, eyes, and limb while working with machinery

Then the Occupational Safety and Health Acts (OSHA) were established as a comprehensive occupational safety and health law "to assure so far as possible for every working man and woman in the nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve human resources". As a result, companies need to ensure safety levels, or face the possibility of being on the wrong side of the law. In a sense, OSHA forced employers to look in to safety as an issue that touches all aspects of management.

Today a management system can be considered to be lacking if it does not incorporate within it a comprehensive and occupational health and safety element. To aid in integrating such a system into the existing/planed management system, OHSAS 18001 specification and the accompanying OHSAS 18002 guidelines have thus been developed in response to urgent customer demands for a recognizable occupational health and safety management system standard against which their management systems can be assessed and certified. The specification lays down requirements for an OH & S management system to enable organization to control its OH & S risks and improve its performance. It does not state specific OH & S performance criteria, nor does it give detailed specifications for the design of a management system.

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