SA companies must improve safety policies
Some 35% of South African companies whose employees are regularly exposed to chemicals, have a view that their current safety policies are adequate, and are resistant to reviewing and introducing more progressive measures to protect their employees.
This is according to latest statistics by DuPont, the global leader of market-driven science. Lizette Kasselman, sales specialist at DuPont, says the survey illustrates a general sense of apathy amongst local companies operating in the manufacturing and engineering sectors.
“As levels of production increase locally, workers are more exposed to new types of chemicals, each with varying hazard levels. It is crucial that corporate safety standards and protective apparel evolve concurrently, as these sectors grow,” she says.
Kasselman points out that local manufacturing and engineering companies also need to continually adhere to Health and Safety regulations, by providing employees with equipment that meets or exceeds the base requirements necessary to safeguard against the materials they are routinely exposed to. “For example, CE marked products are a manufacturer’s declaration that a product complies with the relevant European health, safety and environmental protection legislations – this is recognised locally as the required protection standard for hazardous environments.”
Kasselman adds that understanding the protective apparel risk categories is important when identifying which equipment to use for specific environments. “The design and production of the appropriate types of protective apparel is measured against a three-tiered risk categorical system, from low to high risk exposure environments. As the risk exposure increases, each category stipulates more stringent certified production requirements and quality controls.”
She explains that Category 1 apparel should be used for low-risk environments, as these are self-certified by the manufacturer, for example sunglasses or poor weather clothing. Category 3 chemical protection apparel, on the other hand, should be supplied for exposure to high-risk environments, as these have gone through stringent chemical permeation testing processes and have been audited by a quality assurance body.
She explains that improved safety standards have myriad benefits for both employee and employer. “If unprotected employees are exposed to hazardous chemicals, considerable consequences for both the firm and the individual are possible. The individual may experience permanent life-long damage and the company could face potential litigation charges as well as medical and insurance costs, which could lead to substantial reputational issues.”
Kasselman says companies should choose suppliers that adhere to the highest safety standards governing the industry. “One way to do that is to request a copy of the supplier’s safety policies. Companies should also ensure that all protective apparel contains a manufacturer’s declaration, stipulating that the product complies with the essential requirements relevant to health, safety and environmental protection legislations.”
DuPont’s recent joint venture with US-based MECS, a leading global provider of process technology, proprietary specialty equipment and technical services for sulphuric acid producers, illustrates the growing trend of collaboration and inclusive innovation between technological companies and their industrial and chemical customer base, to improve operational efficiencies and safety.
“Continuous evaluation and improvement of existing safety standards are required to ensure South African companies remain competitive globally, by complying with international benchmarks and best practice,” concludes Kasselman.