However disability need not be an obstacle to professional success and in most countries around the world there are laws to protect people of all abilities in the workplace. Much of this legislation requires employers to make reasonable accommodation for people of different abilities.
This extends to the health and safety of all employees. It is important not to view employees with disabilities as one group, they are individuals with differing challenges and the approach to health and safety must keep this front of mind.
If you are creating or updating your international health and safety plan to be more inclusive, here are some evidence-based suggestions on approach:
1. Consult with employees
A step missed by many employers is speaking to employees with disabilities on an individual basis about their needs. These members of staff understand their own condition and are likely to have useful suggestions on required accommodations in the workplace.
2. Consult with relevant disability organisations
Many forms of disability have representative bodies who have developed considerable expertise around the health and safety needs of someone with their condition.
3. Good management and planning
Good management and planning are required to build and maintain a safe and healthy workplace for all employees. Ask everyone, regardless of whether they declare a disability, if they have any specific health and safety needs during their induction.
4. Develop an inclusive written health and safety policy or safety statement
Many countries around the world require you to have a health and safety statement that covers the wellbeing of all employees while they are at work.
A written health and safety statement is something your business should develop regardless of any legal requirement to have one in the country in which you operate as it will provide a foundation for employee wellbeing in your business.
This plan should contain:
· Risk assessment: To identify all the potential risks in your workplace
· Control measures: Preventative procedures to address each potential risk
· Expert and employee recommendations: For employees who may have a disability
The plan should take into account anything that could be dangerous to a person with:
· Impaired vision
· Impaired hearing
· Mobility issues
· Dexterity issues
· Limitations around understanding
· Health conditions like epilepsy or heart problems
Also consider how standard control measures may impact those with certain disabilities, for example an audible fire alarm may not be sufficient to alert someone with a hearing impairment to the danger. Ensuring alarms are audible and visual may be a useful way to control this.
5. Ensure the plan is implemented
Once the plan has been written and shared with employees, the next step is to ensure compliance. Establishing a health and safety team within your business can assist with this. Members of the team can review compliance on a regular basis.
6. Keep the plan up to date
Review and edit your health and safety plan on an annual basis to factor in changes that may have taken place within your workforce and facilitate them accordingly.
Taking an inclusive approach to health and safety in the office benefits all employees.
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