A Health Risk Assessment Now Could Avoid CCMA Complications Later
In 1993, South Africa’s Occupational Health and Safety Act mandated employers to ensure their workplace was free of hazards that might pose a threat to employees. Just a few years later, the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration was established under the Labour Relations Act. The role of the latter was to provide services intended to ensure fair labour practices, including the provision of a safe and healthy environment. Conducting a health risk assessment offers employers a chance to ensure their compliance with the act and avoid any risk of appeals to the CCMA by their workers.
Covid-19 has been a powerful demonstration of how quickly an airborne pathogen can spread and the damage it can cause. Most businesses responded responsibly to this invisible threat with masks, social distancing, and remote working arrangements. However, with or without the pandemic, a workplace can be filled with other hidden dangers whose effects may take longer to show. These could prove equally or even more dangerous unless identified by a health risk assessment and nullified or managed effectively.
Health Risk Assessment VS Personal Appraisals
One should not confuse this activity with the personal appraisals conducted by a doctor. These focus on demographics like age and gender and examine lifestyle trends such as tobacco and alcohol use, coupled with blood and urine tests. By contrast, the goal of workplace assessments is to identify potential hazards within the working environment and evaluate the extent of the risk they might pose to those workers who could be open to exposure. Consequently, it is the job of a technical specialist rather than a doctor to conduct a health risk assessment.
Different types of Health Risk Assessments
In most cases, the assessor will be checking for three types of hazards – physical, chemical, and biological. On occasions, the search might also include an appraisal of ergonomic conditions that could lead to conditions such as repetitive strain injury or spinal problems. Physical hazards can persist unnoticed for years until spotted by the trained eyes of an assessor. These might include unguarded machines, slippery surfaces, or exposed electrical wiring. In most cases, merely pointing them out is generally enough to prompt remedial action by an employer. However, most aspects of a health risk assessment require more than visual observations.
For example, measuring the threat posed by ambient noise requires specialised equipment and monitoring the exposure levels of any personnel who are seen to be at risk. Excessive noise is now the predominant cause of permanent hearing loss and the source of most industrial compensation claims. Poor air quality can also threaten employees’ well-being, especially those with asthma or allergies. To ensure workers are safe from airborne contaminants, air sampling and laboratory tests are necessary components of a health risk assessment.
Legionella pneumophila is commonly present in natural water sources like dams and lakes, albeit in small numbers. However, they can become concentrated in internal water systems, where they can cause pneumonia. Identifying these and other human pathogens like Salmonella, Brucella, and Bacillus anthracis also requires sampling and special lab tests. IOH Solutions is an experienced industrial hygiene specialist accredited to perform your health risk assessment. Booking an appraisal today could safeguard your company from potentially damaging CCMA hearings in the future.
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