Every profession has its own terminologies to enable the practitioners communicate. Lawyers have their terms just as doctors and health, safety and environment is no exception.

The study of health, safety and environment covers a wide range of subject areas from chemistry, physics and biology to engineering, psychology, sociology and law. Whereas some of the topics are very easy to understand, some are more technical and requires specialist knowledge. That tells you how broad this subject is. Therefore, in my first series on this subject, I want us to understand some of the major terms you would come across in my subsequent articles.

Application of standard health and safety at work places, markets or offices face a lot of barriers. Due to its complex nature borne out of competing and conflicting demands, successful practice of health and safety relies on perfect behaviour of individuals to always behave in the ideal way.

Having said that, there are some key terms you must understand. These terms a very basic as it forms the foundation for your understanding of the whole concept of health and safety. Here are a few:

Safety – this means there’s no risk of serious personal injury. For example, walking under a load suspended by crane can result in loss of life. Or crossing a busy road without watching both direction before attempting to cross. So, you must avoid any such act.

Health – this means disease is not present. For example, exposing oneself to extreme stress can result in nervous breakdown. One must simply avoid practices the bring health implications.

Welfare – accessibility to basic social amenities. For example, toilet facility.

Environmental Protection – conscious efforts to prevent damage to the air, land, water and other living creatures in the wider environment. For example, exhaust gases create toxic atmosphere. Avoid engaging in acts that endanger the environment for instance, the activities of galamsey operators that result in destruction of forest vegetation and pollution of water bodies.

Accident – refers to anything that is not planned for or any unwanted event that results in injury, damage or loss. For example, two vehicles colliding with each other.

Risk – the likelihood of a harm being caused and the severity of the attendant injury, damage or loss that might occur. For example, being knocked down by moving vehicle can either result in injury or death depending on the impact of the accident.

Hazard – unsafe acts (people) or unsafe condition (machines, material, and work place) that has the potential to cause harm. Unsafe acts are caused by human beings either deliberately for instance leaving an item in a walkway or storing items at exit point. Unsafe condition maybe caused by natural occurrences for instance rain falling on a tiled floor can result in wet floors which can cause people to slip and fall.

Evacuation – moving people safely away from impending hazard. For instance, if there is enough evidence to believe that a building could be caught in fire, occupants (the people in the building) moved out of it immediately.

Rescue – saving people trapped in a hazard. Unlike evacuation, in the case of rescue, they occupants have actually been caught up in the building on fire and do not have means to escape.

Near Miss – any unwanted event that pose threat of injury, damage or loss but DID NOT, in fact DO SO. For example, when you are nearly hit by vehicle.

Dangerous Occurrence – a specified event that has to be reported to the relevant authority by statute law.

Health and Safety Culture – the product of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies and patterns of behaviour that determines the commitment to, and the style and proficiency of organisation’s health and safety management.

Better understanding of these terms helps you appreciate the overall concept and scope of health and safety. We are going to meet them frequently in our further discussions. What is most important is to understand their meanings and not necessarily memorise them.

TIP: Don’t run when crossing the road; walk briskly. The Danger is that if you run, you might trip and fall or run into a vehicle or an object that is not in your view.

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