As levels of production increase locally, workers are exposed to new types of chemicals, each with varying hazard levels, more often. This necessitates companies’ safety standards and protective apparel to evolve concurrently, says science-based products and services company DuPont sales specialist Lizette Kasselman.
The company reports that 35% of South African companies whose employees are exposed to chemicals on a regular basis, are reluctant to review and improve their safety measures.
This was revealed in the company’s latest safety survey.
Kasselman says the statistics illustrate a general sense of apathy among local companies operating in the manufacturing and engineering sectors towards revising their safety policies.
She adds that local manufacturing and engineering companies also need to continually adhere to health and safety regu- lations by providing employees with equipment that meets or exceeds the base requirements necessary to safeguard them against the materials they are routinely exposed to.
“For example, Conformité Européene-marked products are a manufacturer’s declaration that a product complies with the relevant European health, safety and environmental protection legislation. This is recognised locally as the required protection standard for hazardous environments,” she explains.
It is also important to under- stand the protective apparel risk categories when identifying which equipment to use for specific environments.
“The design and production of the appropriate types of protective apparel are measured against a three-tiered risk categorical system, from low- to high-risk-exposure environments. As the risk exposure increases, each category stipulates more strin- gent certified production requirements and quality controls,” Kasselman says.
She explains that Category 1 apparel should be used for low-risk environments, as these are self-certified by the manufac- turer, such as sunglasses or clothing for cold or rainy weather. Category 3 chemical protection apparel 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.
“Improved safety standards have myriad benefits for both employee and employer. “If unprotected employees are exposed to hazardous chemicals, it could hold considerable consequences for both the firm and the individual,” she states.
Kasselman suggests that companies should choose suppliers that adhere to the highest safety standards governing the industry.
“Companies must request a copy of the supplier’s safety policies and ensure that all protective apparel contains a manufacturers’ declaration, stipulating that the product complies with the essential requirements relevant to health, safety and environmental protection legislation.
“Continuous evaluation and improvement of existing safety standards are required to ensure that South African companies remain competitive globally, by complying with international benchmarks and best practice,” she concludes.