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While many of those who report for work each day are faced with nothing more serious than the risk of becoming unfit as a result of the sedentary nature of their jobs, this is certainly not the case with many other employees. The workplace can be full of dangers. Some of these may be obvious while others can be far less so and could escape the notice of all but an expert. To ensure the safety of those who may be at risk requires not only vigilance but also the service of someone with the relevant, specialised expertise. That expertise will be in a field that has come to be known as occupational hygiene.

In support of the requirements mandated by South Africa’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) as amended in 1993, the task of these specialists begins by recognising any potential hazards to the health and safety of personnel and evaluating the seriousness of those threats. Wherever it may prove necessary, their next task will be to determine and to implement whatever precautions may be necessary to eliminate those risks or at least to adequately control them, so as to ensure that they remain minimal. In summary, it is the task of those who are engaged to provide a company with occupational hygiene services, to prevent injury or illness among the workforce arising from hazards present in the workplace by identifying, evaluating and controlling them.

Potential hazards in the workplace fall into a number of categories of which chemical, physical, biological, and possibly ergonomic issues will normally fall within the purview of these specialists, while the investigation of psycho-social hazards such as bullying tactics and sexual harassment is regarded as the responsibility of a union representative.

Assessment of risk in the workplace involves the identification and quantitation of particulate matter in the atmosphere as well as the workers who may be at risk. In many cases, there are defined levels for such substances at which the risk is deemed to be acceptable. Consequently, regular atmospheric monitoring to ensure that these acceptable levels are not exceeded is an important part of an occupational hygiene service.

Preventative measures may be as simple as ensuring that all staff members who are required to work in noisy areas are issued with effective ear defenders or that those who operate certain types of machinery are issued with protective goggles. However, as one adage states, one can take a horse to water but there is no guarantee that it will drink. For this reason, educating managers, supervisors, and workers with regard to the dangers in the workplace and the possible consequences of ignoring the measures designed to limit them is an equally important part of this service.

IOH Solutions is a company with an in-depth knowledge of occupational hygiene and environmental health that spans almost 15 years. IOH is accredited as an approved inspection authority by the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) and the Department of Labour, and is the preferred choice of many companies, both locally and in the neighbouring states. Just how safe are your workers? If you are not 100% certain, for peace of mind, why not let us inspect your workplace?