Ensuring workplace safety for all employees is the responsibility of all company employees, from those on the manufacturing floor, all the way up to top level management and the CEO. To ensure optimal workplace safety, all employees should be trained in some sort of health and safety course, either internal induction or one of the accredited OHS act courses.
A solid foundation for any successful workplace safety effort is one that encourages employees to identify unsafe behaviours and opportunities for improvement, while also making well-informed safety decisions during their daily routine work tasks.
By understanding the general principles of health and safety and the OHS act, all employees are empowered to assist in implementing and maintaining optimal workplace safety and overall OHS act compliance.
The DoL (Department of Labour) is becoming increasingly strict about ensuring OHS act and workplace safety compliance and frequent inspections are a reality. Non-compliance can result in very costly non-compliant legal fees, or worse, employee fatalities. This means that non-compliance may have a lengthy and long-lasting negative reputational effect on the company and its employees.
The OHS Act – SECTION 14:
General duties of employees at work
Every employee shall at work-
- take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions;
- as regards any duty or requirement imposed on his employer or any other person by this Act, co-operate with such employer or person to enable that duty or requirement to be performed or complied with;
- carry out any lawful order given to him, and obey the health and safety rules and procedures laid down by his employer or by anyone authorized thereto by his employer, in the interest of health or safety;
- if any situation which is unsafe or unhealthy comes to his attention, as soon as practicable report such situation to his employer or to the health and safety representative for his workplace or section thereof, as the case may be, who shall report it to the employer; and
- if he is involved in any incident which may affect his health or which has caused an injury to himself, report such incident to his employer or to anyone authorized thereto by the employer, or to his health and safety representative, as soon as practicable but not later than the end of the particular shift during which the incident occurred, unless the circumstances were such that the reporting of the incident was not possible, in which case he shall report the incident as soon as practicable thereafter.
Paragraph (a) states that employees are responsible for their own health and safety and that they should take reasonable care of those around them. Paragraph (b) makes provision for the employee to co-operate with any requirements set out in terms of health and safety, but the employer cannot expect co-operation if working conditions are unsafe. It is, therefore, the responsibility of all employees to obey all lawful instructions or rules that are implemented for the benefit of all employees health and safety.
Risk assessment to ensure workplace safety
As part of managing the health and safety of any organisation, you must control risks in your workplace. To do this the company needs to identify what might cause harm to people and decide whether the company is taking reasonable action to prevent that harm from actually occurring. This process is known as risk assessment and companies are required by law to carry out this process.
One of the most important aspects of a risk assessment is to accurately identify potential hazards in the workplace. Walk around the workplace and take the time to methodically identify potential hazards. Consider the work activities, processes or use of substances that could injure fellow employees. Ask the Health and Safety Representative to join the process as they are familiar with the workplace layout.
How to do a risk assessment
A person from your organisation will need to be trained to do a risk assessment. After training, they will be able to fully understand how to identify hazards as well as categorise and evaluate risk(s). Training will enable sustainable and sufficient workplace safety.
Steps in a risk assessment to ensure ongoing workplace safety:
Step 1: Identify the hazards
When working in the same location every day it is easy to overlook potential hazards. Here are some tips to help identify possible hazards:
- Check manufacturer instructions or data sheets of chemicals and equipment, as these contain pertinent hazard information.
- Look back at your incident and accident and ill-health records, as these often identify less obvious hazards. The Health and Safety Committee incident records should also be available for review.
- Take account of non-routine operations, such as maintenance, cleaning operations or changes in production cycles. These are unusual events and may have higher associated risks.
- Remember to consider long-term hazards to health, such as high levels of noise or exposure to harmful substances such as chemicals.
- Visit Health and Safety websites that publish information and practical guidance on risk levels, hazards and how to control them.
Step 2: Decide who might be harmed and how
Once hazards have been identified, you will need to understand who might be harmed and how. For example, a loose wire on the manufacturing floor may harm manufacturing staff through electrocution.
Step 3: Evaluate the risks and decide on control measures
Once the hazard has been identified and you have decided who may be harmed and how it is important to protect those employees from harm. These hazards can be removed completely or the risks controlled so that the risk for injury is decreased.
Step 4: Record your findings
An often forgotten step is that all findings must be written down. In fact, it is a legal requirement. In your findings you will need to prove that you have identified a hazard, stated who could be harmed and how, and show how you plan to eliminate the risks and hazards.
Step 5: Review your assessment and update as and when necessary
We know that the only constant in this world is, change. Very few workplace environments remain the same. This means that a risk assessment should be conducted often.
A good and reliable workplace safety and OHS partner will help to identify how often the risk assessments should be conducted based on your particular working environment, as well as conduct them on your behalf and assist with the required recordings and action plan.
Are you compliant with the OHS Act of South Africa? Take our Speedy Assessment to find out.
About us: Absolute Health Services (AHS) offer tailored Health and Safety Files, conduct company Health and Safety Compliance Assessments as well as detailed Health and Safety Risk Assessments. We offer accredited Health and Safety (H&S) training, ensuring that our clients receive current, professional and quality training. All our training instructors are paramedics registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa, and have extensive practical operational experience and have specialised in First Aid, Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), Firefighting and H&S training. Our training courses contain the latest theoretical course content and extensive practical content and scenario training, thereby ensuring both theoretical and practical exposure. Absolute Health Services has a team of Health and Safety graduates and practitioners that are able to assist organisations in implementing a holistic, logical and successful Health and Safety management service within their unique working environment.