The hindsight of the Covid-19 outbreak reminded us the importance of having a positive health and safety policy at work.
In fact, it is the law that every employer in Malaysia is having such a responsibility not only to the employees but also to clients, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders, in relation to health and safety matters at work.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 (Act 514) (“OSH Act”) in Malaysia is the primary legislation that provides for the safety, health and welfare of every employee at work, including to protect others against the risks of safety or health in connection to the activities at work.
The OSH Act also establishes the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, being the enforcement agency that is responsible for ensuring the safety, health and welfare of people at work as well as protecting other people from the safety and health hazards pursuant to the OSH Act.
In establishing health and safety policy at work, companies may start off by firstly, identifying the health and safety hazards and risks anticipated from their work activities in order to determine its health and safety duties which generally include:-
(a) providing and maintaining safety equipment;
(b) ensuring safe handling and use of substances;
(c) ensuring all employees are competent to undertake their tasks and are provided with adequate training;
(d) ensuring the work done by or on behalf of our business does not adversely affect the health and safety of any contractors or members of the public;
(e) preventing accidents and cases of work-related ill health; and
(f) maintaining safe and healthy working conditions.
In order to encourage employees to report any health and safety concern, it is important that the companies appoint a key personnel (normally known as the ‘Health and Safety Representative’) who has a key role in ensuring the systems and controls that the companies have in place are effective and has overall responsibility for compliance and for overseeing the implementation of this policy.
Of course, it takes two to tango, all employees also have a role to play in complying with health and safety policy and achieving safe working conditions.
In order to ensure observance to the health and safety rules, companies must highlight to the employees that any failure to comply with the terms of this policy may be treated as misconduct and will render an individual liable to disciplinary action under the Company’s disciplinary procedure
It is important that companies are having a mechanism in place for the ongoing review of health and safety rules within the business.
This can be achieved by sharing of information and communicate with the Health and Safety Representative and/or other expertise or vendor regarding health and safety matters.
Moving forward, it is perhaps prudent for employers to also devise such policy as an employment terms to specifically provide for the event when the companies is prohibited from operation and the employees is in turn cannot attend to work.
Due to such health and safety concerns in light of such authorities’ guidance or order, the employer shall cease paying wages of the employee or only pay wages commensurate with the work done by the employees, at least temporarily, until the safety measures lifted.
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