In terms of Section 24 of the Occupational Heath and Safety Act, the employer shall report to the Provincial Director of Labour any accident where a person dies, becomes unconscious, suffers a loss of limb or part of it, becomes ill or likely to be off work for 14 days or unable to perform his normal duties. He shall also report any major incident, a major spillage, the uncontrolled release of substance, machinery fracturing or disintegrating or machinery running out of control. Serious accidents (death, loss of limb, machinery running out of control etc.) must be reported immediately, while less serious accidents must be reported within seven days.

In terms of Regulation 9, of the General Administrative Regulations, an employer shall conduct an accident investigation and record the findings on Annexure 1, which must be kept for at least 3 years. This applies to all accidents / incidents as per Section 24 of the Act.

The accident investigation must be conducted by appointed / trained people, either from within the organization or from outside. All findings must be entered into the Annexure 1 form. The records need to be examined by the Health and Safety Committee and recommendations should be made.

Where witnesses are available, they need to make statements and these need to be signed and attached.

We are of the opinion that any small incident or near miss should also be investigated and the cause and contributing factors determined in order to prevent a re-occurrence. If this is followed through, the incidents will drop, the place will become a safer place and the chance of a serious accident will decrease dramatically.

The staff in general should also be informed of the reasons for the accident / incident / near miss, what precautionary measures are to be taken and what the cost of each incident was. By doing this, they will become involved and start owning safety – something we want.

When investigating an accident / incident, bear in mind that there is always a primary cause (e.g. an object in the middle of a pathway over which an employee fell) and secondary or contributing causes. As example the primary cause is the object in the pathway. The secondary causes could be poor lighting (happened at say 03h00 in the morning) loss of concentration (time factor) poor housekeeping, undue pressure from bosses to have some work done immediately etc. In order to improve the situation we need to look at all aspects and try and improve on them.

Training is ongoing and the results need to be relayed to the workers through the training program.

Safety is an ongoing subject that needs the attention and support from the top.

Better safe than sorry!

Written by Frans Wilbrink of Wilbrink & Associates, tel. 031 – 266 9035