The Right Safety Equipment to Have on Site
The importance of establishing a safe working environment for staff and visitors, and to ensure that contractors also work in a safe manner cannot be stressed enough. There are various ways of ensuring a safe working environment, such as identifying hazards in the workplace according to Section 8 of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act 85 of 1993, and supplying the correct safety equipment in the event of an emergency.
Every company has to be prepared for any unplanned emergency taking place in the workplace. Being prepared means, undergoing adequate training in the use of different types of safety equipment, as well as having the safety equipment readily available to be used during the unlikely event of an evacuation or emergency situation. Safety equipment also has to be properly indicated with the appropriate site safety signs required by law.
The legally required safety equipment that needs to be readily available on the site will include some or all of the following depending on the organisation:
- First Aid kits (Wall-mounted or carry bags);
- Fire Extinguishers and Fire Hose Reel;
- Fire Hoses and Nozzles (if there are fire hydrants installed on-site);
- Fire Blankets;
- Emergency Evacuation Plans;
- Loud & Clear or other form of Fire Alarm (may also include rotating red lights);
- Fire Detection Devices (Smoke or Heat Detectors);
- Various Site Safety Signs;
Personal Protective Equipment e.g. gloves, hard hats, goggles, ear protection etc.
Fire Equipment – Fire Extinguishers, Hose Reels and Fire Hydrants
The Environmental Regulations for Workplace section 9, subsection (2) (OHS ACT 85 of 1993) indicates the importance of the provision of firefighting equipment:
(2) Having regard to the size, construction and location of the workplace, and the amount and type of flammable articles used, handled or stored on the premises, and employer shall provide on the premises an adequate supply of suitable fire fighting equipment at strategic locations or as may be recommended by the fire chief of the local authority concerned, and such equipment shall be maintained in good working order.
Once again, the question arises which type of fire extinguisher is available and how do you know which fire extinguisher to use? Different types of fires are extinguished using different types of fire extinguishers. The types of fires include:
- Class A fire – Solid combustible materials. Any material that will burn and leave an ash behind is classified as a Class A fire;
- Class B fires – Flammable liquids. Any flammable liquid e.g. petrol, paraffin, etc. is classified as a Class B fire;
- Class C fires – Electrical fires. When fires are caused by electricity they are classified as Class C fires;
- Class D fires – Fires caused by burning metals are classified as Class D fires;
- Class K fires – When cooking oils, grease or animal fats used in the kitchen catches on fire it can be classified as Class K fires.
The different types of fire extinguishers you may use are as follows and how to identify these extinguishers:
- Water fire extinguisher – Has a red colour coded label and is used on Class A fires only.
- CO2 fire extinguisher – Has a black colour coded label and can be used on Class A, B, C and D fires. Do not use these extinguishers in very confined spaces with little to now ventilation, the user may be overwhelmed by the CO2 and go unconscious.
- DCP (Dry Chemical Powder) fire extinguisher – Has a blue colour coded label and can be used on Class A, B, C and D fires. The DCP consists of very fine powder that can cause damage to sensitive electrical equipment. In areas where sensitive equipment is kept rather use CO2 extinguishers.
- Foam fire extinguisher – Has a cream colour coded label and can be used on Class A and B fires only. Remember that foam contains water and the user may be electrocuted when used on an electrical fire.
Fire extinguishers need to be maintained on a regular basis to ensure that they can be used at any given time it. There are however important factors to consider when servicing or maintaining your fire extinguishers. SANS 1475 states that the service and maintenance of fire extinguishers, fire hose reels and hydrants shall be carried out annually (i.e. every 12 months not 3 or 6 months as some fire servicing companies will try and make you believe) with the additional requirement that powder, foam, water and water based extinguishers be pressure tested every 5 years and CO2 extinguishers every 10 years. If a fire extinguisher is used, it needs to be serviced as soon as possible and not placed in the store room until it is time for the annual servicing of all fire extinguishers.
Part 1 & 2 of SANS 1475 also states that all staff members involved in the reconditioning of fire extinguishers, fire hose reels and above-ground hydrants shall have been trained and, where relevant, registered to ensure that each section of the work is carried out in accordance with the applicable part of SANS 1475. Ensure that your fire servicing company is a registered company with SABS and SAQCC and that the fire technician carries his individual SAQCC accreditation number. If an unaccredited service provider is used to save money, as they are often cheaper, and something goes wrong e.g. a fire extinguisher does not discharge in the event of a fire your company will be held liable and not the servicing company. Check the servicing label on the fire extinguisher for the company SAQCC number or ask the company to produce the relevant accreditation documentation.
When installing new fire extinguishers, you need to take SANS 10105:1 into consideration. Fire extinguishers shall be installed with the carrying handle of the fire extinguisher not more than 1.5m above the floor level. The clearance between the bottom of the fire extinguisher when mounted on a bracket and the floor shall not be less than 3cm. Please ensure that you install the correct size fire extinguisher in the workplace taking the type of hazards that may be encountered and the people that must use them into account. Installing a vehicle use fire extinguisher in the workplace to say there is a fire extinguisher pressure is not viable. A fire extinguisher is a first responder device, if you only have ladies in the working environment do not install the heaviest fire extinguisher on the market and rather install two smaller more manageable fire extinguishers.
We offer a wide variety of Fire Equipment to suite every company’s needs! Ranging from fire hoses, Nozzles and Cabinets for your fire equipment, Fire Blankets for your kitchens all the way through to various Fire Extinguishers in different sizes. The most common Fire Extinguishers in use today are CO2 and Dry Chemical Powder (DCP) extinguishers. Both of them are excellent fire extinguishers for most fires, however the DCP is a very fine powder base and not recommended for use on sensitive electrical equipment. CO2 is again not recommended in a small confined spaces as the gas could cause users to go unconscious if inhaled in large quantities.
First Aid kits in the Workplace
The General Safety Regulation Section 3 (OHS ACT 85 of 1993), subsection (2)states that where more than five employees are employed at a workplace, the employer of such employees shall provide a First Aid kit or kits at or near the workplace which shall be available and accessible for the treatment of injured persons at that workplace. Available and accessible does not mean locked with a lock and key, or kept in the bottom drawer in the secretary’s desk!
The question often arises about what type of First Aid kit are required or sufficient in the workplace, and how many needs to be installed. The General Safety Regulations states that the type of injuries that are likely to occur at a workplace, the nature of the activities performed and the number of employees employed at a workplace shall determine the amount of First Aid kits needed. It is therefore industry specific but the law does stipulate the minimum requirement for a workplace First Aid kit and it includes the following:
- 1 x Cetrimide Solution – 100ml
- 1 x Gauze Swabs – 100’s
- 1 x Cotton Wool 100gr
- 2 x Swabs Sterile – 5’s
- 1 x Plastic Forcep
- 1 x Safety Pins – 12’s
- 1 x First Aid Scissors – 10cm
- 4 x Triangular Bandages – Non-Woven
- 4 x Conforming Bandages – 75mm
- 4 x Conforming Bandages – 100mm
- 1 x Fabric Roll Plaster – 25mm x 3m
- 1 x Anti Allergic Tape (Paper Plaster) – 25mm x 3m
- 1 x Box of Plasters – 20’s
- 4 x F.A.D.3 – 75x100mm
- 4 x F.A.D.5 – 150x200mm
- 2 x Wooden Splints
- 4 x Pairs Latex Gloves
- 2 x CPR Mouth Pieces
Medicine like headache tablets or antihistamine tablets may not be kept in the First Aid kit and the employer should only keep the equipment above or similar equipment. According to the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act 101 of 1965, no person is allowed to dispense medicine (Which includes tablets, powders, syrups, or any other oral medicine) unless the person/s have been authorized to do so under the Pharmacy Act.
When First Aiders use equipment from the First Aid kit while treating injured employees the employer must ensure that the articles are replaced as soon as is reasonably practicable. First Aiders / Health and Safety Representatives should complete regular inspection checklists to ensure that First Aid kits contain the minimum prescribed equipment.
We stock both the Regulations 7 and Regulation 3 options. If you already have the box but your stock has been depleted, we also stock the First Aid kit refills. Ensure that your First Aid kits are mounted in a way in order for the First Aiders to easily remove them and take them to the Emergency Assembly point during an evacuation.
For small fires, especially in a kitchen you can also make use of a fire blanket. A Fire blanket plays a significant role in commercial premises where food is being cooked, where flammable substances are used, or where there is a major risk of small fires in the workplace and will be a vital piece of safety equipment. A fire blanket is constructed of sheets of fire-resistant fabric and comes in different sizes such as 1.2 x 1.2 m, 1.2 x 1.8 m, or 1.8 x 1.8 m. The larger size fire blanket is actually large enough to wrap around an adult in the event of someone’s clothing catching fire.
A fire blanket must be mounted and be clearly visible, and readily accessible for use in an emergency. Many companies install a single or multiple fire blankets throughout the workplace but fails to ever open them up and inspecting them, which should form part of your Fire Marshall’s monthly check sheet. When a fire blanket is not properly maintained it can fail to perform as needed and not extinguish a fire. This presents a significant hazard in the workplace and it is therefore crucial to regularly inspect all workplace safety equipment. If a fire blanket has been used in an emergency it must be discarded and a new one installed as a damaged fire blanket may fail to work effectively and catch a light when used again posing a massive risk in the workplace.
OHS Act poster set
As per the OHS Act you need to have the set of 3 posters (OHS Act, Employment Equity Act and Basic Conditions of Employment Act) displayed in your workplace where employees have access to them. We supply the sets and can also supply aluminium snapper frames to round the picture off and protect the posters. We recommend displaying them in an area where there is a lot of traffic like the canteen area for example.
A fire alarm forms a crucial part of a company’s safety equipment. Where properly installed a fire alarm will reduce the chances of employees, visitors and contractors getting injured or dying due to fire, smoke, heat or other factors. All buildings across the country are required by law to comply with National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act 103 of 1077, SANS 10400 T, SANS 10287 and SANS 10139 when it comes to fire alarms and emergency preparedness.
Fire alarms can vary from simple systems e.g. a whistle or a loud and clear to expensive comprehensive computerised systems. The components of a fire alarm may include some or all of the following equipment:
- Smoke detector – A smoke detector picks up smoke in different ways and would then sound an alarm either as a stand-alone unit or as part of a system. The chances of dying in a fire is decreased by 50% when smoke detectors are installed;
- Emergency Break Glass – Fire alarms has a thin film of glass you have to break and push the button or flip a switch to sound the fire alarm;
- Heat detectors – Heat detectors will pick up a sudden change in room temperature and trigger the fire alarm;
- Fire Alarm Control Panel – This panel is the controlling component of the entire fire system. Very fancy control panels can tell you where in the building the fire is located;
- Fire Alarm and LED Flashers – These are activated when a fire is detected to warn everyone to evacuate a building. LED Flashers are particularly useful when the workplace is especially noisy or when there are deaf employees on the premises;
- Water Sprinklers – These are automatically spray water onto the fire when they are activated.
Ensure that your fire alarm and safety equipment linked to your fire alarm is regularly checked and tested!
Loud & Clear Device
As an employer you have to ensure that there is a way to inform employees of impeding danger and emergency evacuations. An excellent alternative to expensive electrical fire alarm systems are Loud & Clear devices which can easily, inexpensively and strategically be placed throughout your premises. They are user friendly and very effective!
Emergency Evacuation Plans
SANS 23601 indicates the requirements for emergency evacuation plans. Evacuation plans should be located where they are visible, accessible and readable to anybody who has access to a site. These evacuation plans have to be permanently fixed and be located where occupants can learn the means of escape. The evacuation plans should be installed at strategic points which can be on every floor at primary entry points, near lifts and stairs, in every room (e.g. hotels), at training points (cafeterias, office centres or meeting rooms) or at principal junctions and intersections.
The following elements should be indicated on such an evacuation plan:
- Evacuation procedures
- Identifications of all escape routes (Primary and secondary routes)
- Location of all firefighting equipment and alarms
- Location of emergency safety equipment and evacuation aids
- Location of refuge and assembly points
It’s important to help staff or visitors to orient themselves in relation to the primary and secondary escape routes out of a building, and to assist them along with the disabled, injured, very young, very old and pregnant during an emergency evacuation. An emergency evacuation maps is a crucial piece of safety equipment and plays an important role in ensuring everyone is evacuated quickly to reduce injury and death.
Our floorplans are professionally drawn according to the client’s floor or fire plans to create accurate and up to date plans. We can also supply aluminium snapper frames to round off and protect the evacuation plans.
Site Safety Signs
Communication is crucial to make sure that the culture of safety is created in the workplace. One of these methods of communication is the display of Site Safety Signs. General Safety Regulations 3, subsection 6 (OHS ACT 85 of 1993) indicates that an employer shall fasten a prominent notice or sign in a visible place at the workplace, indicating where a First Aid kit or kits are kept and also display the name of the person in charge of such a first aid kit or kits.
It’s important to know that Site Safety Signs should be visible at all times, according to the SANS 1186:5 and manufactured from photoluminescent material, relating to fire, information, emergency exits, danger or warning site safety signs, in order to meet the standard of compliance. These site safety signs should bear the SABS mark visible on the face of the sign. Photoluminescent signs are used indoors to ensure that the signs are visible, in case of a power outage. These signs are glow-in-the-dark and will “glow” for long enough to ensure employees evacuate the building as quickly as possible. For site safety signs that is for outside use, ensure that they are constructed from Chromadek as they are more durable and don’t fade from UV light.
The different types of signs which should be visible in the workplace are stipulated in these categories:
Warning signs are the type of site safety signs which indicates potential hazards, obstacles or dangerous conditions requiring special attention. Below is a quick guide to the different types of site safety signs:
- Prohibition site safety signs – These signs will tell people not to do something. They have the red circle around the prohibited activity and a red line through it. An example will be “NO SMOKING” signage;
- Mandatory site safety signs – These signs will indicate an instruction which has to be followed. The instruction will be white printed on a blue circle which will again be on a white background. An example will be to “WEAR PPE”;
- Danger site safety signs – These signs warn people against potential life-threatening hazards. Danger signs can be recognised by a red oval with the words DANGER in them printed on a black background with the type of danger printed below in black letters on a white background. An example would be “DANGER – HIGH VOLTAGE”;
- Warning site safety signs – These signs warn people against signs which aren’t life threatening and can be recognised by the yellow background with a black triangle around the hazard. An example would be “SLIPPERY WHEN WET”;
- Emergency Information site safety signs – These signs indicate first aid equipment, evacuation routes, and emergency related facilities. All emergency information signs are green with white symbols and sometimes white writing printed on them. Emergency information signs have to be accompanied by a directional arrow. An example would be First Aid kit signage;
Fire Equipment site safety signs – These signs indicate all fire related equipment and have red backgrounds with white symbols and sometimes white letters printed on them. All fire equipment signs have to be accompanied by directional arrows. An example would be fire extinguisher signage.
Personal Protective Equipment
The purpose of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is to protect employees from exposure to workplace hazards and the risk of injury. PPE is not a substitute for more effective control methods and its use will be considered only when other means of protection against hazards are not adequate or achievable. It will be used in conjunction with other controls unless no other means of hazard control exist. According to Section 8 of the OHS Act it is the responsibility of the employer to supply the employees with the relevant safety equipment.
PPE includes the following pieces of safety equipment:
- Hard hats – The purpose of hard hats is to protect workers from the impact of falling objects as well as protecting injury from colliding with any structures. Hard hats should always be worn on construction sites, and when working at heights;
- Long sleeve overalls – These should be worn when working with chemicals. Overalls may also offer protection from UV radiation;
- Metal toe cap boots – Metal toe cap boots must be worn when working on construction sites, as well as where there is any possibility of foot injuries;
- Reflective vests – These vests have to be worn where high visibility of workers is required a good example would be where high visibility is required e.g. the emergency team in an evacuation;
- Gloves – Gloves should be worn when there is a potential hazard identified for hand injuries;
- Eye protection – Where a risk of eye injuries exists, these may include dust, splashing substances, flying particles eye protection must be worn;
- Ear plugs – Will be worn when there is a risk of noise induced hearing loss;
- Dust masks – Will be worn when working with chemicals, where the risk exists of inhaling particles;
- Full body harness – Will be worn at all times when Working at Heights to prevent accidental falls.
We stock high quality reflective vests in various colours and printed for the various team members e.g. Fire Marshall, First Aider, Evacuation Marshall, H&S Representative, H&S Supervisor etc.
An evacuation chair was designed to evacuate injured or disabled employees from multi-storey buildings during an emergency evacuation. The employee is secured into the chair with straps and pushed over a flat surface on the 4 wheels. When the rescuers approach stairs the wheels fold away and the chair can be pushed down the stairs on a set of tracks ensuring a comfortable and stable descent. This invaluable piece of equipment prevents additional injuries from rescuers trying to carry injured or disabled employees and trapping and falling in the process. The Evacuation Chair folds up and can be hung on the wall out of the way.