What Does a Health Risk Assessment Involve, and How Can It Benefit Employers and Their Staff?
The workplace is often a source of potential hazards to health and safety, but a professional health risk assessment can eliminate or minimise such threats. Occupational Care South Africa (OCSA), claims absenteeism costs the nation’s employers between R12 billion and R16 billion annually, while the Human Capital Review estimates just over R19 billion. In practical terms, this statistic means that 15% of workers are absent on a given day. While seasonal flu and, more recently, Covid-19 are responsible for some of those missing workers, far more can be attributed to injuries and illnesses acquired in the workplace.
Legislation Recommends Employers Conduct Regular Health Risk Assessments
1993 saw the launch of a new government act, obliging employers to introduce measures to limit the incidence of work-related accidents and sickness. The Occupational Health and Safety Act 131 of that year also provided training for those staff members willing to assume responsibility for compliance with its recommendations. More specifically, it provided the guidelines for conducting a health risk assessment. While some companies still utilise employees in this capacity, many prefer to rely on the professional services of a certified industrial hygiene company. The assessment process consists of three distinct steps as follows:
Search for Any Potential Hazards to Health and Safety
The workplace inspection first focuses on identifying any hidden factors that could contribute to accidents or illness. In turn, these can be divided into four sub-groups.
- Physical: For example, missing guard rails on cutting equipment, slippery flooring, exposed electrical wiring and extreme temperatures. Vibration when handling machine tools and prolonged exposure to loud noise are other examples.
- Chemical: Gases like chlorine and carbon dioxide or suspended particulate matter, such as asbestos fibres, cleaning chemicals, adhesives and organic solvents, are all examples of potential chemical hazards.
- Biological: Microorganisms are ubiquitous in all but the most sterile environments. Some bacterial species, like Legionella, and the spores of pathogenic fungi can cause severe illness or even death.
- Ergonomic: Some tasks are poorly designed, leading to excessive exertion, fatigue, musculoskeletal disorders and increased susceptibility to accidents. Mal-adjusted seating, desks and workbenches can have a similar effect.
Assess the Risk Posed by These Hazards
Not all identified hazards revealed during a health risk assessment pose an actual threat to employee health and safety. Minute traces of potentially harmful substances in the air may fall within internationally accepted tolerance limits and require no further action other than ongoing precautionary monitoring. By contrast, exposure to ambient noise levels of 85 decibels can cause irreversible hearing loss when maintained throughout an eight-hour shift. Excessive noise is now the leading cause of deafness and the chief source of industrial compensation claims. Risk assessment often requires specialised monitoring techniques and laboratory assays.
Recommend Remedial Action Where Indicated
Ultimately, it is the employer’s responsibility to implement effective countermeasures where necessary. The assessor will recommend options to eliminate or minimise the risks posed by established hazards and might undertake follow-up visits to verify compliance.
Benefits of a Health Risk Assessment
The service provides a win for both employers and staff. The latter experience better health, fewer sick days, and are more productive, while employers enjoy reduced costs and a welcome boost to their bottom line. Get in touch to learn how IOH Solutions can assist your company.Contact Us for Health Risk Assessments