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Employers’ Responsibility To Workers Under OHSAS 18001 (The New ISO 45001)

The risk of pre and post-election violence in Nigeria, based on historical antecedents, is one that business owners, executives, managers and other employees most consider in today’s political climate.

This is especially so for organisations that are either certified or aspiring to be certified to the International Management standard for Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series (OHSAS 18001), now known as ISO 45001.

Under this standard, organisations are required to recognise this type of risk, establish preventive action plans to mitigate the risk of injuries to its employees, and minimize or eliminate employee exposure to the risk situation created by the potential for civil disobedience or mass protests.

Specifically, Clause 4.3.1, requires that organisations ‘’ establish, implement and maintain a procedure(s) for the on-going hazard identification, risk assessment and determination of necessary controls’’

Further, the standard states that ‘’the procedure(s) for hazard identification and risk assessment shall take into account identified hazards originating outside the workplace capable of adversely affecting the health and safety of persons under the control of organisations within the workplace. (OHSAS 18001 Clause 4.3.1.d)

Thus, managers and management executives guided by the OHSAS standard need to apply a risk assessment methodology that ‘proactively’ determines and documents the scope of such situational risk exposures from pre and post election charged up environments, and the applicable options for managing identified risks.

Some preventive actions policy frameworks commonly in use include:

  • Sit-at-home on early days preceding voting exercises and the announcement of election results
  • Casual non-descript clothing and apparels to prevent attention immediately before and after elections.
  • Prohibition on displaying / wearing politically branded clothing, souvenirs or fashion accessories.
  • Early closing times to enable employees return home before dark.
  • The set-up of a surveillance committee to keep tabs on developments in the ‘’out-side world’’
  • Cancellation or rescheduling of all non essential out-office appointments

Even after all practical steps may have been taken to mitigate the probability of exposure to election related violence, in some instances, employees still contend with marauding protesters storming their organisations.

A question that organisations must answer then is: ‘’what if violence breaks out on- expectedly while employees are hard at work- do we have a suitable emergency response plan? .

OHSAS 18001 in Clause 4.4.7 provides a practical framework for managing such extremes. It requires that organisations establish, implement and maintain procedure(s) to:

  • Identify the potential for emergency situations.
  • Respond to such emergency situations.

The OHSAS management standard further requires that such emergency preparedness and response plans be designed to mitigate the impact of risk events (such as potential election related violence on staff), while taking into account the needs of all relevant interested parties.

For management teams in organisations that do not have policy frameworks and procedures to manage emergencies and historical risk hazards associated with election, it is not too late to get started.

As the great, Chinua Achebe is reputed to have said ‘’People say that if you find water rising up to your ankle, that is the time to do something about it, not when it’s around your neck.

So why not contact an Occupational Health and Safety practitioner for insight today!

Benjamin Gii

Management Systems Consultant at Leitung

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