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It may have taken many centuries of employee exploitation and neglect to learn that a healthy workforce is a productive one, but this somewhat self-evident message has since been made clear to employers in most nations. Accordingly, many of the world’s governments, including that of South Africa, have introduced legislation designed to outline the requirements for maintaining health and safety in the workplace. The first step in the implementation of these requirements would be to arrange for a professional safety risk assessment.

Those who perform this service are required to hold a recognised qualification in the field of occupational hygiene. In addition, they should be accredited by an acceptable body and approved by the department of labour as a competent inspection authority.

One can work in the same environment for years and continue to remain unaware of any potential danger to one’s health and safety until someone finally suffers a work-related illness or is injured. The experts who conduct a safety risk assessment have been taught exactly where to look and what they should look for, as well as how to gauge the extent to which their findings might pose a threat to the personnel employed in a client company’s various workspaces.

Potential workplace hazards can take different forms and tend to vary widely between industries. It is, however, convenient to categorise them as belonging to one of three main groups. Those in the first group are physical in nature and, as such, they are generally the easiest to detect during a safety risk assessment. Typical physical hazards include exposes or faulty electrical wiring, missing or inadequate safety guards on machinery, and excessive levels of noise or vibration. Even in the office environment, poorly designed seating or a desk of an uncomfortable height can lead to postural problems and impact health.

Those hazards that fall into the other two categories tend to be more difficult to detect and some may require the use of special instruments and laboratory tests by the industrial hygiene specialists hired to perform your workplace safety risk assessment. These remaining categories cover various chemical and biological hazards. The former group includes gases, liquids, vapours, and solid chemical particles of various kinds and these may cause problems due to contact with the skin or the eyes or as a result of inhalation. In some cases, their effect may be cumulative, so it can take a while for the physical evidence of contact to manifest in an affected worker.

On the biological front, the safety risk assessment team will need to focus on the detection of potentially hazardous microorganisms which may be airborne, waterborne, or found on clothing and working surfaces. The particular microflora present will differ according to the nature of the work performed but one of the most common biological threats comes from Legionella bacilli in the water supply or air conditioning system. The team will take air and water samples and test them for the presence of the bacillus which can cause severe pneumonia-like symptoms.

Industrial accidents and work-related illnesses continue to cost industries millions in compensation payments, and most are preventable A healthy workforce is not only more productive but is also cheaper. The best way to protect your staff will begin with a safety risk assessment with us today.