During my audits of various companies I have come across two major concerns that I would like to discuss when we are starting a new year:
1. I came across a number of emergency escape doors in buildings being locked and no key was found next to the door behind a break glass for in case of an emergency. The comment I got each time was that people steal the company’s computers and other items. Some units were some 10 stories high.
Reg. 9 of the Environmental Regulations for Workplaces clearly states “every door of a room in which persons may be present, and every door of a passage or at a staircase serving as a means of exit from such room, shall be kept clear and capable of being easily and rapidly opened from inside so as to ensure quick and easy evacuation”
If theft is a problem, than sensors could be installed that would set off an alarm if somebody tries to open the door. This can be further enhanced by making use of CCTV cameras.
The size of the escape door(s) must be in accordance with the number of people working in the area. A building is designed in accordance with SANS 10400. The number of people per square meter requires certain minimum standards. If a building was designed for say 1 person per 10 square meters and we now put say 1 person per 2 square meters in this building, the overall safety requirements change. These include escape facilities as well as toilet facilities.
2. I have noticed some companies are giving their employees all sort of PPE to wear (well over the top for the environment and type of work being performed), yet the basic safety standards are not being adhered to. We have two problems: First of all hazards should be engineered out where possible and PPE should only be the last resort. Secondly PPE will not be of any use if basic engineering principles are not adhere to, e.g. if you are working in a potentially flammable or explosive environment and the equipment is not in accordance with the zoning of the area, you are exposing your staff to very serious risks. We must be balanced when prescribing PPE – remember it is not the only safety we need to look at – we need to look at the overall operation: each and every potential risk and gradually work them out of the system.
Let us work at our operations on an ongoing basis and eliminate all the risks gradually by means of engineering methods.
Written by Frans Wilbrink of Wilbrink & Associates, tel. 031 – 266 9035