E is for environment, but not as in Mother Nature

E is for environment, but not as in Mother Nature

Charmont Media Global, the publisher of SHEQ MANAGEMENT, has opened an office in the Western Cape … Providing inspiration for this column.

I recently moved to the Fairest Cape as Charmont Media opened an office close to the Mother City, bringing with it beautiful scenery, cheap wine and a new desk – which presented some problems (the new desk, not the cheap wine). This, however, provided inspiration for my first column.

When it came to putting pen to paper (or rather fingers to the keyboard) I didn’t know what to tackle first: strikes that are plaguing various industries, or the horrific effects that sustainable energy has on the environment? (Yip, you read right.) Or perhaps the myriad of other topics covered in SHEQ? The mind boggles at the possibilities this acronym provides.

But I opted for the E, in a slightly different manner, and here is why …

The thorn in my side related to the ergonomics of the new work environment as the Capetonian desk is about 20 cm narrower than my old one in Johannesburg. This meant that my keyboard was closer to the edge than I was used to it being, which hindered my typing and slowed my productivity … But with a slight reshuffle, placing my screen in the left-hand corner instead of on the desk’s horizon, I was back to my original efficiency.

This got my grey matter going and sparked a frenzied Google stint, unearthing research and papers as far back as the early 1980s on how your work environment and equipment influence your productivity. And this is just for office-bound folk, with hazardous industries having an even bigger effect on workers’ productivity and safety.

In these high risk areas the work environment is out in the field, down in a mine or high-up in the air with employees’ lives literally hanging by a rope … So their “keyboards” and “desks” can’t even be out by mere millimetres, as this can mean the difference between life and death.

An example of how important ergonomics is in mining is demonstrated by one of the latest developments in the personal protective equipment (PPE) industry. Select PPE – a multi-brand service provider of customised, on-site PPE management solutions – has launched a range of “head-to-toe” protective gear designed specifically for women.

In the past, the fairer sex have often had to be content with one-size-fits-all PPE equipment designed for the male physique … And you don’t have to be a biologist to know that there is a massive difference between men and women.

You might be asking: “What exactly does this have to do with work environments and efficiency?” Debbie Joynt, Select PPE’s key account manager, explains that ill-fitting PPE poses a serious risk to women’s health and safety, but also negatively impacts their productivity (it’s hard to do your job if struggling with a loose fitting helmet or an overall that’s too short).

Having identified this trend, Select PPE proactively undertook seven months of intensive market research, which started at the end of last year. According to Joynt, the findings revealed that, during the third quarter of 2012 alone, more than 2,6 million women in South Africa needed some form of PPE as part of their work requirements (a lot more than one journalist needing a new desk).

And, because Select PPE is a multi-brand supplier, Joynt notes that the company is able to supply products suitable for women ranging from gumboots and hardhats to goggles, coats and ear plugs. Women can now do their work in hazardous environments safely and efficiently – without having to worry about ill-fitting PPE.

So, with my new desk’s ergonomics ready for business and the beautiful scenery (along with the cheap wine) providing ample inspiration, I hope that you will enjoy my new column, known as SHEQ Sound Off, as we explore the acronym in a slightly different manner.

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