Corporate social responsibility is a voluntary action by organizations that involves the incorporation of the stakeholders’ communal and the environmental concerns into the business. This involves putting into consideration matters that are not primarily business oriented. Moreover, it is the process of bringing into the company issues that were formerly not business oriented (European Agency for Safety and Health at Work 2004, p5). According to Baker (2010), it is the practice of not thinking about profits but also putting into consideration the welfare of the workers and the society at large as well as exceeding what is considered legal, ethical, profits as well as the societal expectations of the organization.
Basically, the success of corporate social responsibility and the Human Resource Management are enhanced by the critical role played by the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH). This paper will discuss the importance of Occupational Safety and Health and its dual role in a company’s corporate social responsibility strategy and Human Resource Management strategy.
Occupational safety and health (OSH)
Occupational safety and health is concerned with ensuring the health, safety and welfare of the employees are upheld. It aims at improving the working conditions so that there is a safe working environment to both the workers and the community or society and is directed to ensuring that the workers are physically, communally and mentally healthy (Shannon, Robson and Sale, 2001, p. 320). This is done on moral, personal, economic and legal grounds.
On the personal level, no employee wants the job he is doing to contribute to disability, pain and suffering, affect his home life, lead to loss of earnings or the capacity to work due to illnesses or accidents. The financial aspect of health and safety deals with monetary matters in terms of compensation, loss of capacity to earn as a result of injuries or sickness and procedures and policies on medical treatment and cover (European Agency for Safety and Health at Work 2004, p.67).
Generally, morality is what is presumed to be right even if it is not enforceable by the law. The OSH provides that it is not morally right to expose the employees to working conditions or activities that are likely to result into damages or that are injurious to their health.
There are instituted guidelines and laws that regulate the relationship of the employee and the workplace. These rules give the minimal requirements of the safety standards in a workplace and the mechanisms for reinforcing these rules. Breach of these rules by the employer or the employee may lead to imprisonment, hefty fines, or measures may be taken by the authorities to enforce the requirements which may lead to negative publicity or the business may be closed down.
Human resource management (HRM)
Human resource management is an organizational philosophy that regards the employees as the main assets to the company and believes that these assets have a capacity for development. It involves the processes of recruiting the employees, training, placement and inducting them. Moreover, the approach to motivation and incorporation of the employees into the organization by aligning the individual and the organizational goals is also a concern of HRM (Goldsmith and Nickson, 1997, p1).
Human resource management ensures that the employees the organization contracts are the best suited for the particular position through recruitment and training. After the employees are inducted into the company, a follow up is done to ensure that they have been fully integrated into the organization. It seeks to enable the worker to exploit his full potential as he does his job by making sure that he has the necessary training, he is well inducted and integrated to the company and that the working conditions are suitable for high productivity.
How HRM, CSR and OSH are related
One of the main concerns of the CSR is the well being of the employees; the main asset to the organization. The internal policies of the CSR are usually geared towards the employees and may include but are not limited to OSH and investment in employee management and sourcing (zwetsloot, Leka and Jain, n.d, p.100). Organizations have come to realize that even if the external image is good yet the internal is bad, an effort has to be made to improve the internal social image through improvement of the employee and the working conditions. This has co-joined CSR with OSH by making OSH part of the internal strategy for the CSR (Zwetsloot, n.d, p.100).
OSH therefore is a sector within the CSR that seeks to ensure that the working conditions and the kinds of jobs that the employee is exposed to do are tailored in such a way that physiological and psychological health threats to him are minimized.
The CSR effort to change the internal social conditions of the work place acts to improve the working conditions which in turn lead to the employees exploiting their maximum potential in the process of production. This is a function of the HRM hence the link between the CSR, HRM and OSH.
Gammon Construction Ltd
The Gammon Construction Ltd, which is headquartered in Hong Kong, is a largest construction and engineering company in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia with a turnover of $1 billion (Gammon website, 2010). Founded over 50 years ago, the company has engineered construction projects in Asia including Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Philippines among others and employees about 3,000 fulltime employees. The company has always put social CSR as part of its corporate strategy by sponsoring various community programs and ensuring that it conducts its business in a manner that impacts positively to the community in which it operates. Indeed, the chief executive of the company states that the future of the “company will be judged by not what it builds but how it builds” (Gammon Managing change, 2008, p. 2). However, human resources issues and safety and quality of life are some of the issues that have dogged the company as it strives to create long term sustainability.
Although most companies were affected by the 2008 recession, the demand for infrastructural development as a stimulus for economic recovery puts future prospects of the company high; it is therefore important for the company to build a competitive edge through sustainable human resource development, CSR and complying to safety and quality standards. Indeed, its corporate culture is based on the notion of sustainable development and this can be done if the organization takes into consideration the consequences of its actions to the society, economy and the environment and take responsibility for these actions.
OSH, HRM and CSR in Gammon Construction Ltd
When the working conditions of the employees are improved with the assurance of health and safety, the corporate image improves in that, the employees and other stakeholders in the corporation view it as not exclusively profits oriented but as minding about the welfare of the community in general.
As a part of its employment policies, Gammon believes in ensuring job security for its employees even when the company is undergoing changes. The company understands the economic pressure following the recent credit crunch and the emerging competition in the construction industry that is likely to compromise safety of the workforce; however, enhancing the accountability of all stakeholders in safety design and developing realistic construction programs should be prioritized (Gammon Managing change, 2008, p. 5). Indeed, its safety system one of the strongest in the industry and this is reinforced by regular independent audit and compliance with the OHSAS (Gammon Managing change, 2008, p. 11).
The investment on the employees in form of developing them to become better employees has a health and safety dimension in that, the better they are at their jobs, the less likely they are to cause accidents. Psychologically, the training and job assurance shows the employee that he or she has a future in the company and that the employer values him/her. Indeed, the company understands that “highly skilled, effective and safe workforce is vital to the creation of modern industry” (Gammon Managing change, 2008, p. 5). This would lead to reduced stress levels therefore ensuring that OSH rules are met. The impact of this is that the employee is motivated, trained and goals aligned through the changes in HRM while at the same time improving the reputation of the organization externally through CSR. The organization input in OSH leads to fulfill some of the CSR and HRM functions and this leads to increased employee loyalty, productivity, and reduces the rates of the employee turnover.
The safe and healthy environment would therefore provide the employees with the best conditions for optimum production. The improved working conditions act to integrate the worker into the organization therefore reducing the rate of employees’ turnover. Increased demands for jobs in the organization would lead to simplification of the recruitment process and therefore have the best work force working for the organization due to the large pool from which to choose (Portney, 2010, p.264). Increased safety measures increase the competitive advantage the organization has over the competitors. This can be done on the aspect of cost leadership whereby the safety and health measures will reduce the costs to the organization resulting from work related injuries (Rechenthin, 2004, p. 304). Indeed, Gammon invests highly in instilling safety skills to its leadership including the managers and supervisors, as well as contractors, clients, designers and client’s agents in order to reduce the burden of safety management responsibility to the frontline supervisors; however, the frontline workforce has been instrumental in designing safety strategies by the company, more so through the frontline safety committee (Gammon Managing change, 2008, p. 11). Moreover, in its Endeavour to improve economic growth, the company incorporates CSR in its growth strategy and this can be evidenced by the establishment of a CSR committee in all of its business units (Gammon Managing change, 2008, p. 7).
If all the requirements of safety and health are met, the organization would then have accomplished many things, with CSR and HRM objectives being among them. Indeed, the company’s commitment to Zero Harm shows that it strives to extend is duty of care responsibility to its employees, their families and the general public (Gammon Managing change, 2008, p. 8).The concern about the employees’ welfare in terms of safety and health would therefore lead to betterment of the organizational image to the community and the other shareholders. This is because the people would see the organization as concerned about the employees’ welfare and not just the profits. Moreover, they would see the company as foregoing the chances to make profits or save the money it invests in the employees (Carlisle and Faulkner 2005).
The organization however is investing for the sustained growth of the company by making devoted employees and customers. The company is also able to save on the expenses it had before. Basically, after it implements the safety and health measures OSH, HRM and CSR are joined into one and savings can also result from the reduced accidents hence reducing the fines and courts procedures on compensation.
On the internal aspect of the company, employer will gain from the loyalty he would gain from the employees. The rates of job turnover would reduce because the employees feel comfortable in their positions. The productivity of the employees would increase due to the increased motivation to the workers to produce optimally and the recruitment process would become easier due to the competitiveness of the company in the job market.
As the working conditions of the employees are improved with the assurance of health and safety, the corporate image improves. This is because the employees and other stakeholders in the organization view the company as not exclusively profits oriented but as minding about the welfare of the workers. These changes affect the corporate social responsibility and the human resource departments. Well executed safety and health campaigns may lead to savings by the company as the OSH will play the roles of HRM and CSR as well. The organizational reputation will grow due to the presumed goodness of the organization and so will the methods that are used to implement the OSH, the HRM strategies.
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