Health and safety compliance is a critical element of success and legal compliance for all businesses around the world. Almost all business opportunities and tender requirements require companies to be health and safety compliant and to provide actual proof of health and safety systems, risk assessments, documentation, committees, training and appointments such as Health and Safety Officer or Specialist in place.
As per the OHS Act, it is the responsibility of the employer to provide a healthy and safe working environment for all employees, as well as making sure that all clients, visitors and any other 3rd parties that may enter your working environment do not have their health and safety compromised in any way.
Section 16.2 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act states that “without derogating from his responsibility or liability in terms of subsection (1), a chief executive officer may assign any duty contemplated in the said subsection, to any person under his control, which person shall act subject to the control and directions of the chief executive officer.”
How Does the Employer Manage to Control the Health and Safety Risks?
The employer (CEO) needs to appoint a competent person to manage, control and improve the Health and Safety Management Programme on their behalf. This person is normally known as the Health and Safety Officer.
What Requirements Do You Need To Work As A Safety Officer?
In order to become a Safety Officer, the individual will need to possess most, if not all of the following characteristics:
- Be trustworthy and reliable;
- Have good administrative and communication skills;
- Demonstrate a genuine concern for people’s health and safety;
- Respond timeously and be available at all times;
- Be confident and address any person or manager who is at fault or not complying with the set safety standards;
- Take ownership of their responsibility and obligation as the designated Safety Officer;
- Being able to think outside the box and being a natural problem solver
Qualification requirements of a Safety Officer
Once the employer has identified the correct individual to become the Safety Officer of the organization, this individual will need to start his/her health and safety professional certification in order to become a qualified Safety Officer. A typical safety officer course has a minimum duration of at least 10 days. There are no formal requirements for someone to become a Safety officer, but the above-mentioned attributes are a definite plus point.
Qualified in industry
Once the individual has completed his safety officer course he is seen as a junior safety officer and still needs to gain the relevant knowledge and experience in order to become a senior safety officer. Because of the vast field of safety officer jobs in OHS the individual may decide to become a construction safety officer or a safety officer in the production, manufacturing or corporate working environment. It is best for the individual to register with the relevant Health and Safety Governing Body for the industry that he chooses. If you decide to work as a safety officer in the Construction Industry you will need to register with the SACPCMP, and for the administrative, production and manufacturing environment register with SAIOSH.
In both of these governing bodies there are various levels that you register under. The level which you will register under is decided by the governing body and this all depends on your level of qualification and experience. A safety officer’s salary also depends on the industry that they will be working in and on the amount of experience as a qualified safety officer.
Safety Officer Duties and Responsibilities
The duties of a health and safety officer are, but not limited to the following:
- Setting up the organization’s health and safety management system/programme;
- Contentiously monitor, improve and update the health and safety system;
- Communicating all health and safety related information to all levels in the organization;
- Take full responsibility for the management and implementation of the organization’s health and safety under guidance of the CEO/Board of Directors.
Do we need a health and safety officer?
You may be asking yourself, does our company really need to assign and even train a safety officer? The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act 85 of 1993 states that the employers responsibility is the following:
THE OHS ACT SECTION 8:
General duties of employers to their employees
(1) Every employer shall provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of its employees.
(2) Without derogating from the generality of an employer’s duties under subsection (1), the matters to which those duties refer include in particular:
(e) providing such information, instructions, training and supervision as may be necessary to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of his employees;
(h) enforcing such measures as may be necessary in the interest of health and safety;
(i) ensuring that work is performed and that plant or machinery is used under the general supervision of a person trained to understand the hazards associated with it and who have the authority to ensure that precautionary measures taken by the employer are implemented; and
Section 8 (1) is very clear about the responsibility of employers to provide a safe working environment that is without risk to the health and safety of its employees. This section also encourages employers to evaluate working areas and carry out risk assessments and regular Health and Safety inspections.
Paragraph (e) mentions “supervision”. The appointed Health and Safety or Safety Officer or supervisor carries out the role of supervision, as well as representing the employer and management at Health and Safety Committee meetings and in an overall Health and Safety capacity
THE OHS ACT SECTION 17:
Health and Safety Representatives
(1) Every employer who has more than 20 employees in his employment at any workplace, shall, within four months after the commencement of this Act or after commencing business, or from such time as the number of employees exceeds 20, as the case may be, designate in writing for a specified period health and safety representatives for such workplace, or for different sections thereof.
The Act makes provision for constructive Health and Safety communication between the employer and their representative the Safety Officer and the Health and Safety Representatives who represent the employees.
Section 17 states:
- Where there are more than 20 employees, Health and Safety Representatives must be appointed in writing;
- Company employees must nominate the Health and Safety Representatives;
- They must be full-time employees;
- They must carry out their Health and Safety functions during normal working hours.
The primary responsibility of OHS lies solely on your shoulders and as CEO you are to ensure your company is OHS compliant. The Safety Officer will assist you under your direct control to implement OHS act compliance in the company.
Intangible characteristics and traits that make a good health and safety officer:
Genuine concern for people and health and safety
Your safety officer must be willing to self-sacrifice rather than being self-centred and self-serving. The responsibility attached to this role is massive and can be the difference between the life and death of employees, so the Safety Officer can be a chancer.
Evident leadership skills
Your safety officer must be able to lead by example, so they should live, breathe and think health and safety.
Willing to learn
A safety officer’s learning does not stop once they are certified. Your safety officer should be proactive in learning more about health and safety and continuously remain active and current with new Health and Safety content and trends.
You need to be sure that the person appointed will act and react as quickly as possible when necessary. They should show humility in that they get the task done, without expecting reward or recognition.
Good communication skills
When you appoint a Safety Officer and Health and Safety Representative, it is important to keep in mind that they also represent the employees with regards to health and safety, so their communication skills must be good. Representatives are an important link between management and the rest of the organisations employees.
Why send your safety officer on training?
2.2 million fatal workplace accidents happen every year across the world, and 2,643 of those happen in South Africa. Sending your designated safety officer on a training course may be an additional cost, however, those statistics alone should highlight the importance of good training in line with safety officer course requirements. The long-term cost a company will pay for accidents and injuries far outweigh the cost of a training course. Unfortunately, due to the scarcity of resources or a lack of awareness, many business leaders do not think to invest in safety officer training, causing not only their staff to potentially suffer but the business too
What safety officer course requirements should you look out for?
- Accredited with the necessary training authorities like the HWSETA
- Proven track record
- Cost-efficient and cost attractive
- National training courses provided – Inland, KZN, and Cape Town
- Extensive practical operational experience in the Health and Safety field
- Specialised training (such as First Aid, Fire fighting, and Evacuation Planning training)
- Practical content and scenario training methods for practical implementation
When you invest in training that complies with the correct safety officer course requirements, you invest in a workplace that:
Is OHS compliant business
When providing training for your employee, you are not only empowering him or her to fulfill their position but by doing so you ensure that your representative will keep your business compliant, healthy, and safe, which will prevent non-compliance penalties.
Boosts employee productivity
It has been proven time again that employees who are able to follow safety procedures, are more productive. So, by professionally training your safety officer, you will not only ensure your company is OHS compliant but you will also reduce the likelihood of your employees having to take sick leave or be in the hospital due to workplace accidents. When an employer shows interest in employee safety, the result is often loyal, engaged and productive staff.
Training your safety officer does come at a cost, but do you know how much one workplace injury or fatality could cost your business? Things like legal fees, compensation payments, hospital bills, medical expenses and indirect costs such as loss of productivity, worker replacement, reputational damage and increased insurance premiums all far outweigh training costs.
Think about the potential savings should you chose to invest in training your staff to be OHS compliant. You stand to gain far more from being compliant in the long run, rather than waiting for workplace hazards that could cost your business hundreds of thousands of Rands in the future.
If you are serious about the health and safety of your employees and want to make sure that your organization is compliant with the OHS Act, Absolute Health Services offers an accredited 10-day Health and Safety Officer Course which will enable the delegate to start their career as a junior safety officer. This safety officer course will give the delegate valuable theoretical and practical experience in order to start their career path as a safety officer.