Many South Africans have been working from home following the lockdown restrictions. However, others have been less fortunate and have lost their jobs. The unemployed are probably hoping to find jobs when the pandemic eventually subsides, and the homeworkers are probably looking forward to meeting up with their colleagues again. Nevertheless, the lockdown rules were measures to protect our health and safety based on risk assessments and statistical surveys conducted by doctors, virologists, epidemiologists, and other specialists.
Despite the widespread inconvenience caused by lockdown, one cannot deny that, globally, measures such as handwashing, wearing masks, and social distancing have been instrumental in preventing millions of additional deaths. However, these measures were only implemented when the infection rate and death toll gave cause for alarm. How much more effective would it be if one could recognise such potential hazards and take preventative action?
Unfortunately, one cannot predict spontaneous outbreaks of Ebola or Coronavirus, but only respond to them. However, conducting a health and safety risk assessment in the workplace offers a way to identify numerous potential threats to employees and implement whatever measures may be necessary to protect them.
While you may not encounter too many concealed threats to life and limb in the average office, there can be many potential hazards lurking in a factory. Like viruses, workplace hazards often remain unnoticed until someone becomes ill or is injured. However, as have most industrialised nations, South Africa has introduced legislation obliging employers to ensure safe working conditions. A professional health and safety risk assessment offers the most effective way for employers to comply with the terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993.
Those terms require an employer to identify hazards in the working environment that might lead to illness or injury and decide how serious a threat they may pose to workers or visitors in vulnerable areas. Where harm appears possible, employers must then implement steps to eliminate or control the relevant hazards.
Some hazards are easily spotted despite being frequently overlooked. A professional health and safety risk assessment should not be necessary to identify and remedy hazards, such as improper handling of machinery, clutter, poor hygiene, or the need for safety rails. However, the list of potential workplace hazards is as long and as varied as the nature of the work undertaken and may be physical, chemical, or biological.
Identifying hazards and evaluating the attendant is often not possible without specialised knowledge and skills. Furthermore, the task frequently involves the use of specialised monitoring equipment and laboratory tests. While training in occupational hygiene techniques is available, a health and safety risk assessment conducted by a team of trained and accredited specialists is the best way for a company to ensure compliance with the most recent legislation.
Would anyone in your company be able to identify the presence of Legionella in the water supply or air conditioning system? Could they determine whether the ambient noise level in the machine room could be sufficient to cause noise-induced hearing loss? Assuming they could, would they know what to do next? If you cannot answer “yes” to these questions, for your peace of mind, let IOH solutions conduct a professional health and safety risk assessment for you.