The first section states “every employer shall provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of his employees”. Are there no fumes in the factory, is our ventilation adequate, are the noise levels kept at a low as possible level, is the illumination correct? Have we documentary proof of all of this?
The second section has many sub-sections that discusses the various aspect of a safe environment:
The first sub-section talks about maintenance of systems of work, plant and machinery – is the equipment maintained and have we records of the maintenance done on the equipment?
The second sub-section talks about eliminating or mitigating hazards or potential hazards. Have we encapsulated a noisy piece of equipment, or moved it out of the factory in order to reduce the noise inside the factory where the workers are working? Have we installed an extraction system to reduce the level of fumes in our factory, or our laboratory?
The third sub-section talks about the reduction of risks in connection with the production, processing, use, handling and storage of substances. Have we looked at replacing dangerous chemicals with less dangerous ones, e.g. replaced methanol with e.g. propanol or ethanol? This is not always possible. Are we able to change from using a powder to using the product in a solution? Have we supplied the logistics people with the right lifting and handling equipment in order not to cause damage to e.g. backs or feet?
The fourth sub-section talks about having identified risks and action taken to remove or mitigate the risks. Has a risk assessment been done on the operation (Hazardous Chemical and a General Risk Assessment)? Have precautionary measures been taken to mitigate risks, e.g. the installation of an extraction system over a chemical loading bay? Has old, faulty equipment been replaced by more modern and safer equipment?
The fifth sub-section talks about information, instructions, training and supervision of staff. Has all relevant staff been formally informed of any dangers; have they been issued with proper written instructions that are not ambiguous and is training an ongoing part of your operation. Are supervisors and management regularly on the shop floor?
The sixth sub-section talks about not allowing people to work if every thing is not 100% safe and if the employees do not wear all the required safety equipment (PPE). We often find that symbolic signs at the entrance to a work station require certain PPE, yet nobody wears the required PPE. Please note that this is an offence and if management does not take action to correct it, they are conniving with the workforce, which is an offence.
The seventh sub-section talks about the duty of the employer to ensure that the requirements of the Act are complied with by all employees and people under his control, while the next sub-section talks about enforcing these requirements. This means if a person is not complying with the instructions / requirements of the Act or its Regulations, disciplinary action must be taken. Proof of action taken must be available.
The ninth sub-section talks about supervision of both work done and of the machinery used. The supervisor must obviously be a competent person who has been trained and understands the hazard of the machinery and equipment used.
The last sub-section talks about informing all employees regarding the scope of their authority as contemplated in section 37 (1) (b).
Written by Frans Wilbrink of Wilbrink & Associates, tel. 031 – 266 9035