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Reducing risk

July 02, 2013

IT can be argued that constant improvement of working conditions in developed countries is one of the key factors for effective performance of public organisations.

It has become a legal requirement for any organisation to make sure that working conditions are suitable and the employees are safe.

In other words, organisations are now required to ensure that health and safety regulations are fully observed at workplaces. Thus, team leaders and managers are required by law to provide a safe working environment.

However, working conditions in developing countries in general and Pakistan in particular are deteriorating day by day mainly because of the lack of new health and safety rules and the poor implementation of existing regulations. Thus, the uncongenial health and safety situation has led to several incidents in the recent history of Pakistan.

Recent work situations in some organisations indicate that workers are being bullied in offices and humiliated by their bosses. These workers are not fully protected against harassment, blackmail or various forms of discrimination including those involving gender, ethnicity and religion.

These issues affect the mental capabilities of employees. However, the physical abilities of workers are affected by the unavailability of a risk-management plan and resources for its implementation.

For instance, factory workers are put to work in an extremely harsh environment and without the proper equipment or special skills required for doing a particular job.

In other situations, workers have time limits for completing various tasks and there is a failure to comply with health and safety rules. This violation of rules is taken seriously neither by the team leaders nor the employees. Consequently, the likelihood of danger increases.

However, violations take place in organisations where laws and regulations are not being followed or where people don’t fear the consequences of breaking laws.

Thus, there are various potential risks. Some are considered more damaging than others. Some of them are likely to occur more than others and some can be stopped or reduced quickly. It is important to identify risks and prioritise the major ones. After identifying the risks, the next thing to do is to assess them. This exercise will give the manager an idea of what can be done to avert serious risks.

The nature of risks can be internal or external depending on the location of work. Nevertheless, it would be useful to examine separately the factors which cause these risks.

With regard to indoor work, the risk potential can be devastating if not managed properly by team leaders. The failure to manage internal risks can ruin business and damage the image of organisations.

The best way to begin the process of managing risks is to create awareness among workers about health and safety responsibilities because poor awareness and lack of care on the job is a major cause of accidents at workplaces.

Thus, health and safety measures if put in place can help reduce risks to one’s person and mental health. Like traffic rules which help in reducing major road accidents, safety regulations can help us handle difficult situations within organisations effectively.

In addition to awareness, various methods of averting risks can be employed at the workplace. For example, the danger of a fire breaking out can be effectively managed through fire extinguishers, alarms, the safe use of ladders and other tools.

Organisations here need to develop a strong fire alarm system. It would help create a safe environment and workers would feel secure. They would not have to deal with fear or worries during work.

However, outdoor work requires the team leader to look out for external factors which are a potential danger for team workers outside the premises of the organisation.

They have to consider logistics, transport and weather factors for tasks supposed to be done outside. It is the manager’s duty to make sure that his team members know what needs to be done in an emergency. They should know where to go and how to reduce risks. The employees can be informed through team briefings and safety manuals.

In addition to this information, team leaders can arrange for health and safety courses for their team members in order to learn the various techniques of reducing internal and external risks in both manual and technological handling.

The process of lawmaking is driven by the needs created by social, economic and political changes in society. These changes create disturbances in every aspect of society.

For example, they create disturbances in social organisation which creates the need to maintain social control. Similarly, organisational change also creates the need to formulate new rules which can regulate the changing world of work. In addition, the use of the latest technology within the organisation also requires a regulation system that can be upgraded.

In Pakistan, rule-making and its implementation does not seem to keep pace with technological changes in industrial and commercial organisations. This has caused several accidents at the workplace. However, the more depressing fact is that apparently no lesson is being learnt by our policymakers and law-enforcement officers to manage work-related risks.

The new government will face various challenges including organisational effectiveness. But its performance will be judged from the ability of organisations to deliver services effectively.

Thus, the organisational development strategy of the government needs to incor-porate all the latest health and safety regulations in order to achieve the goal of effectiveness.

The writer is a researcher at Royal Holloway, University of London.