A workshop manager at a large fishing company had instructed his workshop crew to flush out the remaining diesel sediment at the bottom of a very large tank, which had a carrying capacity of 250,000 liters. This operation was an annual event, and the seasoned crew were familiar with the procedure. However, on this occasion the crew had been assigned to dismantle the trawler’s engine, which left the workshop manager no other choice but to utilize the workshop apprentices to remove the sediment from the tank.
Due to pressure from senior manager, to reduce the time spent on repairs and maintenance, the workshop manager issued the apprentices with buckets, spades and brooms and told them to get on with the job. They proceeded into the tank using a ladder and commenced the cleaning operation. After one hour of scooping up the sediment and placing it into buckets, the apprentices complained of having difficulty breathing, and proceeded to evacuate the tank. To make matters worse, one of the cleaning crew had fainted and had to be lifted out of the tank.
The on-site compliance officer was tasked to do an investigation into the incident, which resulted in the following irregularities being recorded:
• The compliance officer was not notified of the cleaning operation, as depicted in the company’s safe work procedure for this kind of operation.
• No confined space permit was issued for the job.
• The tank had not been purged before the operation.
• A gas meter was not used to determine the level of gas in the tank, prior to entry.
• The crew were inexperienced.
Ultimately, the entire incident could have been avoided if the compliance officer was utilised to do a comprehensive confined space entry permit, prior to the commencement of the work.
Having stated the above, compliance officers who have completed compliance and risk management courses are responsible for ensuring that all internal policies, procedures and processes are adhered to, as prescribed within the various sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Without a compliance officer, who actively monitors and drives compliance risk management, the company runs the risk of violating the applicable laws and regulations.
A compliance officer’s duties will depend on the nature of the business. It is a generally accepted norm that a compliance officer functions as an independent entity, who reports directly to a senior manager. The primary functions of a compliance officer should include the following:
• Maintain and enforce the OHS policies and procedures of the company.
• Advise Management on the status of closure regarding the internal and external audits.
• Maintain training schedule and advise members of the health and safety committee on upcoming mandatory training, as per legal appointments.
• Perform site inspections, record the results, and action items for closure.
• Conduct risk assessments and updates on an annual basis.
• Manage on- site security.
• Communicate with suppliers for the calibration and service of various assets.
• Conduct safety induction and toolbox talks as required.
The constant pressure on companies to stay abreast of their rivals, has resulted in a large portion of operational funds being allocated to boost product or service promotion. Although health and safety is regarded as a vital part of daily operations, it is seen as a secondary function, as no income is derived from it. This has resulted in companies receiving substantial penalties during compliance audits by the Department of Labour, where non-compliance has been detected,
Having stated the above, the onus is upon the compliance officer to uphold the safety management system at the workplace. Their role is regarded as critical, in preserving the safety of employees, via the application of internal policies and safe work procedures, as stipulated in the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Why choose a career in compliance?
A career as a compliance officer instils the “satisfaction factor”, which stems from the operational requirement to execute their daily functions, without the immediate need for management intervention. The tangible results of seeing the implementation of safety appliances or the successful completion of a monthly report, allows the compliance officer a degree of self-accomplishment.
Your path to becoming a compliance officer
Absolute Health Services offers three excellent health and safety related courses to help you on how to become a compliance officer in South Africa:
- Health and Safety Officer course: a 10-day compliance officer course
- Health and Safety Supervisor: a 2-day risk and compliance course
- Health and Safety Representative: a 1-day basic compliance course
Professional memberships that can enhance career prospects:
Compliance officers can enhance their careers by joining professional bodies. The South African Institute for Occupational Safety offers their members the following attributes.
• SAQA Professional Registration.
• Free to attend Provincial CPD OHS Workshops.
• Free to attend OHS Webinars.
• Free e-Learning.
• Free Legal Updates to all related OHS Acts.
• Free Legal Advice provided by an OHS Advocate.• Free subscription to the SHEQ Management Magazine.
Key skills and qualities for success
Inherent characteristics of a compliance officer should be:
• A passion to accomplish positive results.
• Self-driven, ethical and motivated.
• Work independently
• Analytical and problem solving skills
• Good communication and inter-personal skills
• Attention to detail and accuracy
Take the next step in becoming a compliance officer: contact Absolute Health Services for more information and sign up for the next available course in Fourways, Durban or Cape Town.