Help With Your Health and Safety Management Measures
Since the publication of the relevant act in 1993, employers in South Africa are obliged to conform with certain recommended actions relating to the management of the health and safety of their employees whilst at work. Help, in the form of training, is available to assist both employers and employees in their efforts to comply. However, in most cases, this will represent a marked departure from the normal core activities of a business, as well as imposing on time that many owners might consider would be better spent on production. To avoid such problems, the act also catered for the training of professional occupational-hygiene specialists who would then be available to conduct the necessary services on a third-party basis.
It is convenient to consider the role of these professional health and safety management specialists as consisting of three main tasks. These need to be conducted on the premises of their clients and in close collaboration with the employers and their staff. The first of these tasks is to conduct a workplace inspection and its purpose is to seek out and identify every potential hazard that may be present.
The act combines new measures with long-standing regulations previously applied to mining and other specific occupations to create a set of more generalised regulations and recommendations to protect the South African workforce as a whole. This means that a trained health and safety management professional is required to have in-depth knowledge of a wide range of businesses and, in particular, of those aspects of each type of business that might constitute a potential hazard.
Hazards are generally considered as falling into three main categories; namely, physical, chemical, and biological. However, there is a growing realisation of the importance of comfort in the workplace, so the ergonomic aspects of a job can also be a significant factor in ensuring the wellbeing of employees. That said, most of the research during a workplace inspection is likely to focus on those three main areas and, of these, it is generally the physical threats that will be most easily recognised by a health and safety management specialist. These might include exposed or faulty electrical wiring, missing handrails and safety guards, oil spillages that could cause workers to slip and sustain injuries, and excessive noise that could lead to permanent hearing loss.
Monitoring noise levels requires the use of special equipment and this is also the case when investigating chemical and biological hazards – all good reasons for an employer to assign the inspection process to a specialist. That process, however, does not simply cease once the various hazards have been identified. The next step for the health and safety management professional is to evaluate the level of risk posed by those hazards and to identify those workers who may be exposed to them. While some levels of risk may be of little concern, others might require immediate action.
The first line of action will be to eliminate or, at least, minimise any hazards and so reduce the attendant risk levels. Finally, the specialist will recommend any further measures deemed necessary to ensure workers are suitably protected against any unresolved risks. Implementation then resides with the employer and follow-ups with the health and safety management specialist.