In terms of Schedule 10 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, any person who designs, manufactures, imports, sells or supplies any article for use at work shall ensure, as far as is reasonable practicable, that the article is safe and without risk to health when properly used and that it complies with all prescribed requirements.

Because a machine is complying with the regulations of some other countries (e.g. China) it does not say it complies with South African legislation. If such a machine is to be used in South Africa it may have to be modified in order for it to comply. We have found that especially machines from the Far East often do not comply with our legislation in respect of guarding. They will have to be modified first before we can use them in our factories. Often the guarding is optional and because of cost we ignore purchasing the additional guarding or safety devices.

The second section of this Schedule states that the person who erects or installs any article for use at work or in any premises shall ensure that nothing about the manner in which it is installed makes it unsafe or creates a risk.

The design engineer must ensure that the equipment they design is safe and complies with the legislation. This often does not happen. We come across powder handling equipment that bellows dust out well above the legal limits. We come across chemical reactors that are so poorly designed that there is no possibility of curtailing any fumes.

Once the equipment has been supplied and installed, it is the responsibility of the manufacturer / importer, seller or supplier of the equipment to ensure (a) the equipment is safe and (b) ensure the relevant information is available regarding the use of and risks associated with the equipment.

Lastly the supplier, manufacturer, importer seller or supplier shall undertake in writing that the equipment is safe for the use it is intended for.

We find often that equipment bought through an agent is not certified, and that it does not always comply with our legislation. Often the supplier / agent do supply in good faith, but we need to be careful that we also purchase goods from the supplier who can supply the goods that comply fully with our legislation. Textile machinery from the Far East often do not comply, especially if they are second hand equipment.

Please note that at the end of the day, when something goes wrong, the owner / operator of the equipment (16-1 and 16-2) will be held liable – if the guards were not in place, he / she had to make sure they are in place; if the lockout system did not comply, he / she will be held accountable for not modifying the equipment in order that it does comply.

Let us not walk on thin ice when it comes to the safety of our employees!

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