Safety is everyone’s concern
Proper safety management can prevent injuries to employees while saving companies money. MARISKA MORRIS reports from the annual South African Institute for Occupation Safety and Health (Saiosh) conference
Saiosh hosted health and safety professionals from across the globe at its seventh Saiosh Conference this May. The conference was held at the Gallagher Convention Centre alongside the A-OSH exhibition. Topics of discussion ranged from the cost-saving benefits of implementing safety, the importance of risk assessments, new legislation that is being introduced and the legal implications of health and safety.
While the topics were varied, the key focus of the conference was to highlight the importance of safety. This theme was introduced in the first keynote address by Aggie Moiloai, inspector general at the Department of Labour (DoL). Her address looked specifically at the revisions being made to the current Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act.
Moiloai said the DoL was motivated to revise the Act as some of the policies were not applicable to South Africa, and to address the gap in regulations regarding technological innovations, such as robotics. Revisions to the Act are set to be presented to cabinet soon.
Moiloai noted that there is still time for amendments and input and she urged the industry to participate in the amendment of the bill, but also to ensure companies comply with health and safety regulations.
“Safety is everyone’s business,” Moiloai said. She noted that there is a lack of staff in the department with only 150 health and safety inspectors, which results in a lack of visibility.
A few delegates commented that some inspectors behave unprofessionally when conducting an inspection. While there are guidelines for the behaviour of inspectors, Moiloai admitted that not all inspectors comply with them. She urged the industry to report any unprofessional conduct by inspectors.
Robin Jones, president of Saiosh and chairperson of the conference, added his voice in support of the department. “The DoL is not the enemy. It is providing the framework from which we establish our safety structures in a company,” said Jones.
He did, however, urge the DoL to impose heavy fines to enforce compliance with health and safety laws. He added that, with the lack of available inspectors, it is important for organisations to self-regulate safety, which can save costs.
Thelma Pugh, former managing director at Federated Employers Mutual Assurance Company (FEM), emphasised the cost-saving benefits of investing in the correct health and safety procedures and equipment. Pugh presented a case study of a business that paid R1,1 million after an employee fell through the warehouse roof.
Expenses included hospital, pension and repair costs. Pugh estimated that health and safety equipment and skills training would have cost the company around R14 000. She noted that only three percent of profits are needed to implement health and safety procedures in a company, while close to 30 percent of profits are spent on accidents with a five-percent increase in running costs.
The majority of expenses for companies following an accident are uninsured or hidden costs, such as a loss of productivity, or the cost of training a new skilled employee to replace the injured person. It is not sufficient to simply supply equipment and training. “Too often in the health and safety industry, individuals don’t take care of their own lives, which is why supervision is so important,” Pugh said.
Like many of the presenters that followed, Pugh emphasised the need for a safety culture in business, especially among managers. “Health and safety is not a sum, but a commitment. It’s like getting your face tattooed. It takes serious commitment,” Pugh concluded.
Along with the announcements surrounding the revision of the South African OHS Act, Christo Nel, general manager of safety at the Dubai offices of Uvex, explained the new international standards for hand protection, which came into effect last year.
Other speakers included SHEQ MANAGEMENT contributor Brett Solomon, who introduced a new approach to safety management, and attorney Raynard Looch, who spoke about the various ways companies can be prosecuted under the OHS Act.
“Companies are required to disprove some probabilities under the OHS Act,” Looch said. “While the companies are not considered guilty, they need to provide sufficient evidence that they were not negligent with health and safety regulations.”
Graham Parker, president of International Occupation Safety and Health (Iosh), in the United Kingdom, highlighted the importance of making safety a priority and the role played by Iosh.
“We have ongoing discussions with the Institute of Directors to make them understand the importance of having a safety professional within the senior management team of their organisations,” Parker said.
“Safety professionals are not only able to assist with protecting employees, but could also save the company money. Some of the top experts in the industry are Iosh members and offer their expertise to businesses to assist in improving safety management,” he added.
“We want to make you better. We want to help your employees,” Parker commented. This is exactly the opportunity the 2017 Saiosh Conference offered its delegates.
Honouring young and old
Saiosh also held its 2017 annual dinner and awards ceremony at the Gallagher Convention Centre, following the conference.
This prestigious function was attend by top industry professionals, conference delegates as well as representatives of the various Saoish conference sponsors – which included FEM, Dromex, Uvex and the SHE Group.
Tatho Mamabolo was named the Student of the Year, while Moses Pudikabekwa received the Person of the Year award. Thelma Pugh was presented with the Saoish Wall of Fame award. At the function, Saiosh also inaugurated its new president, Sanjay Munnoo.
Outgoing Saiosh president Robin Jones gave a moving retirement speech and reflected on his more than 40 years in the field of occupational health and safety. Although it was a formal function, it had a festive atmosphere and attendees enjoyed a three-course meal and live entertainment by the duo group Bad Penny.
The Saiosh team dedicates this story to the memory of Robin Jones, who passed away at the time this issue was going to print. The staff at SHEQ MANAGEMENT wish his family, friends and colleagues strength in this difficult time – ed.