Health and safety

By: Julie Thorpe

Health and safety 
Health, Safety and Environmental Control and Improvement

A safe workplace starts at the top…and the bottom.  If there is one area where management and workers need to work together (and we think that there are many!) it is surely in creating and maintaining a safe and health working environment.  Process design and work organisation are primary factors supporting the precautionary principle of accident prevention, while every workplace representative knows that ‘an informed worker is a safe worker’.

Just Solutions consultants include auditors and advisers qualified and experienced in a wide range of internationally recognised performance standards.  They also include unique skills and experience in preparing major industrial sites and mines against unforeseen natural and man-made disasters.  Our experience includes:

  • Training working miners in a multi-year, multi-country global health and safety in mines project.  The Global Health and Safety Project assisted miners’ unions in four African countries, five Latin American countries and two Asian countries to campaign, organise and run education about safety and health in mining.
  • Advising a major international chemical company on its global approach to safe working practices
  • Working with a South African mining corporation to raise awareness of and improve methods for working with HIV-positive workers
  • Researching and writing a manual on Working with HIV for the International Labour Organisation (see ‘Implementing the ILO Code of practice on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work – An Education and Training Manual’, ILO, Geneva, 2002, written by Stirling Smith)
  • Conducting client safety and performance management reviews

Our health and safety activity is informed by deep experience.  Just Solutions’ Founder, Vic Thorpe,  was a prime mover in negotiations for three key health and safety conventions at the ILO – Convention 170 on ‘The Safe Use of Chemicals at Work’;  Convention 174 ‘The Prevention of Major Industrial Accidents’ (the so-called ‘Bhopal Convention’) and Convention 176 on ‘Safety in Mining’.

Just Solutions’ Director of Training and Projects, Stirling Smith, was formerly Chief Technical Advisor for a major ILO project on Occupational Health and Safety in India.

Dundar Sahin, one of our health and safety specialists, is a specialist in emergency preparedness of large industrial operations and was formerly Coordinator of the AKUT, the emergency response unit for earthquakes and disaster relief operations in Turkey and internationally.

Auditing for Safety and Health

Most social auditors are frankly clueless when it comes to safety and health. We see this in Corrective Action Plans that persist in calling for workers to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – when this should be the control method of last resort.

Auditors should be looking at the hierarchy of control. It starts with the control method you should aim for first and works down to the least desirable option. Imagine you have a process using a toxic chemical.

  • Adopt a new method of working which eliminates the need for the chemical – e.g if using pesticides, go for natural pest control methods.


  • Substitute the chemical with something less harmful that does the same job.


  • Engineering controls: Prevent the chemical from releasing fumes that could harm the worker.


  • Engineering controls: Another way is to put up a guard to stop the worker coming into contact with a hazard.


  • Administrative controls Another way is to reduce exposure by sharing exposure. If two workers work for four hours each, instead of one worker working for eight hours, the exposure is halved; So the risk is halved. With pesticides, rotate the spraying job. In a steel mill, where high heat levels are dangerous, rotate the work.


  • PPE: PPE is the last resort – always try something higher up the hierarchy of control if you possibly can.

Read a blog by Stirling Smith demolishing common safety myths:

And his blog about fire safety in factories: