A Health Risk Assessment by IOH Solutions Will Ensure Effective Workplace Safety Solutions
The Occupational Health and Safety Act obliges employers to provide a safe working environment. A health risk assessment offers them the best means to comply. Work-related injuries and illnesses cost South African businesses billions of Rands yearly, yet most of these unfortunate incidents can be avoided. Sprains and fractures resulting from falls due to hazardous working conditions are frequent and widespread problems, as are crush and amputation injuries incurred when handling unsafe machinery.
In practice, the above mishaps have easily identifiable causes. Unfortunately, preventative actions are too often only introduced after the damage is done. However, a workplace can sometimes harbour some less recognisable yet more sinister dangers that only a trained and experienced occupational hygiene specialist may have the necessary skills to identify. Assessment by a qualified occupational hygiene specialist can help relieve a company of unplanned downtime, lost production and payment of sick pay or industrial compensation. It is, therefore, in an employer’s best interests to consider adopting this option.
What Does a Health Risk Assessment Involve?
It is important not to confuse this procedure with one of the same name employed by the healthcare sector. The latter involves a physical examination of an employee that might include laboratory tests and diagnostic imaging and must be conducted by a suitably qualified medical practitioner. By contrast, an IOH Solutions’ occupational hygienist’s investigations focus exclusively on the working environment and any potential physical, chemical or biological hazards it may be concealing.
After a preliminary discussion with management and employees, the specialist will apply their input and previous experience gained from similar businesses when searching for anything that might threaten the health and safety of workers, visitors and others who may need to enter their working environment.
The assessment procedures are technical rather than medical. While some hazards may be easily spotted with an experienced eye alone, identifying others requires a more structured approach, involving sampling air, water, and surface dust and measuring temperatures and levels of ambient noise. The latter requires monitoring both the ambient and individual exposure levels. The collected samples will be returned to the laboratory and examined for chemical toxins, potentially harmful suspended particles and pathogenic microorganisms.
Additional Components of a Health Risk Assessment
The site inspection only identifies potential hazards, and its findings would be of little value without further extending this preliminary step. If the assessment is to be effective, the procedure must include three additional steps as follows:
- Assess the risk posed by each hazard: Although some findings could threaten workers’ health and safety, they are not necessarily dangerous. For example, while ambient sound levels might seem unduly noisy, they should pose no long-term threat when less than 85 decibels. Likewise, government agencies usually publish acceptable levels for hazardous chemical substances; action is only needed when these recommendations are exceeded.
- Suggest countermeasures: For example, if efforts to reduce ambient noise prove insufficient, the specialist will apprise management of suitable hearing protection options.
- Follow-up: Typically, inspections are undertaken annually, allowing the specialist to assess progress and suggest possible improvements where indicated.