For most of the country’s history, there has been no attempt by successive governments to introduce legislation concerning Health and Safety Management in South Africa’s workforce. In all fairness, much the same can be said of every industrialised nation on the planet. Despite the lack of remedial action on the part of governments, the hazards faced by certain types of employment have long been recognised.
History of Health and Safety Management
A papyrus dating from 1700 BC indicates that the Roman military physician, Galen, introduced finger and wrist guards to prevent injuries to these areas that were common among archers. During the 1st century AD, another Roman physician named Pliny advised miners to wear veils to limit dust inhalation. Despite awareness of such problems, the need for regulations governing health and safety management in the workplace continued to be overlooked until the latter half of the 20th century.
The United States was first off the mark with its Occupational Safety and Health Acct of 1971. The US was closely followed by Britain, which published its Health and Safety at Work Act in 1974. While South Africa took steps to improve working conditions in the mining industry and attempted to limit pulmonary disorders soon after, it was only when a similar act was passed in 1993, that health and safety management practices were extended to include all of South Africa’s workers. That said, the Act was a comprehensive one that covered employers’ obligations, the payment of industrial compensation and the training of specialists to assist with the monitoring and implementation of the Act’s recommendations relevant to any given occupation.
The latter provision led to specialised training courses for doctors, nurses, and technical experts with the accreditation necessary to provide various forms of occupational health-related service to the nation’s industries. Of the three, it is the technical specialists who conduct workplace risk assessments and advise employers and staff about any health and safety management that appear necessary.
Why Health and Safety Management
The primary purpose of the assessment exercise is to examine the working environment for potential health hazards. These may be physical, chemical, or biological. The next step is to evaluate the extent of any risk that each hazard detected might pose to affected workers. Where that risk is significant, they must then recommend the appropriate remedial actions. After that, their continuing role includes ongoing monitoring of the company’s progress in implementing their recommendations and assessing whether their health and safety management proposals have been sufficiently effective, recommending any changes or additional measures that may appear necessary.
The role of the specialised doctors and nurses is to examine workers for medical evidence of work-related illness or injury and to treat them accordingly. In such cases, only a physician with an approved occupational health qualification may decide on whether or not an affected patient is fit to resume work or substantiate a compensation claim.
A healthy workforce is a productive workforce. Therefore, it’s in the interest of all employers to safeguard their staff by organising a risk assessment and adopting any subsequent health and safety management proposals. Given its enviable track record and extensive knowledge of the hazards within all major industries, the best way to protect your workforce is to book a risk assessment with IOH Solutions asap.