Health and safety compliance awareness and training and personal protective equipment solutions are clearly needed by South African companies, local health and safety company Safety Solutions Africa tells Engineering News.
This is evident from the feed- back the company received from attendees of the Occupa-tional Safety and Health (OSH) Expo, held in June at Gallagher Convention Centre, in Johannesburg, although Safety Solutions Africa is still processing a lot of the feedback.
Safety Solutions Africa owner John Kilian says several attendees were unaware of the legalities needed to be compliant with health and safety regulations.
“We were one of the few occu- pational health and safety companies in South Africa representing compliance, rather than only protective clothing. It was important that we attended the expo, as it provided us with exposure and, as a result of the success, we plan to take part again next year,” he points out.
Safety Solutions Africa’s approach to health and safety in industry is holistic, as the company offers a complete integrated solution, distinguishing its service offering from that of its competitors.
“While most health and safety companies offer a specific service or product within a particular industry, we offer an entire health and safety solution which can be tailored to all industries,” says Kilian.
“Our solutions are tailor-made to suit various companies and individuals,” he says, adding that health and safety applies not only to certain industries, but rather falls under legislation that all industries must abide by.
“Health and safety cultures stem from top management and what separates us from other health and safety companies is that we approach directors, business owners and managers to create a solid mission and vision by communicating from the top down,” says Kilian.
The company notes that being in the health and safety industry is about the educational process, with training being an important part of its business. “The knowledge is available and everyone is entitled to health and safety. If you do not have the proper processes in place, the punishment can be severe,” he says.
Health and Safety in Industry
Safety Solutions Africa notes that health and safety practices in general sectors, such as corporate environments, are still heavily reliant on awareness, while effective health and safety processes are standard practice in construction and engineering industries.
“We have diversified into corporate and general business sectors, which all require health and safety. “We approach human resources departments in com- panies and have realised that health and safety is not a core focus, as they are preoccupied with other work-related issues,” says Kilian, adding that it is important for companies to make use of outsourced specialised health and safety officials.
The company has incorporated a wellness division, which focuses on the psychological and emotional wellbeing of people, which, if unstable, can affect their productivity and performance in the workplace.
“Factors, such as financial instability, illness or personal problems can be dealt with, but people are hesitant to speak to their boss or work colleagues about these problems, as they are afraid of being judged. “Therefore, we offer this service as part of our health solution,” says Kilian.
Wellness days are also offered by the company to teach employees how to deal with personal issues. “Should the problem be a traumatic one, our company provides counsellors who can guide people through challenging times,” he adds, highlighting that
a distracted employee can sustain injuries because he or she is not concentrating on the work at hand.
Further, the company has recently established a recruitment division that offers health and safety professionals the opportunity to find employment through Safety Solutions Africa. “Although our focus in this division is predominantly on the health and safety sectors, we also source and place individuals in other areas such as information technology,” he adds.
The company has an integrated business system and can manage all health and safety aspects within any company or organisation while ensuring compliance with national regulations.
“Sadly, the biggest driving force behind health and safety compliance by companies or individuals is the issue of insurance,” says Kilian, adding that health and safety regulations are more likely to be followed once a company has experienced being on the wrong end of an insurance claim following a health and safety incident. Further, an insur- ance company will pay out a claim to a company only if health and safety regulations are in place, he states.
The company works closely with the controlling body in the insurance sector, Financial Intermediaries Association, (FIA), which helps brokers ensure that their clients comply with health and safety regulations. “We perform risk assessments for the FIA” says Kilian.
“Basically, we supply a service to the broker and its client to prevent a claim from taking place and, should there be a claim, we ensure that it is valid,” he explains.
Safety Solutions Africa performs audits, the results of which are conveyed to a broker and its client in the form of a list, indicating what the company has checked to ensure that the working environ- ment is protected.
“We try to provide customers with a full health and safety service that is financially viable. If we can ensure that a company’s equipment does not seize by reviewing its maintenance, we are saving it a lot of time and money in the long run,” says Kilian.
Safety Solutions Africa also, for instance, ensures that workers know how to wear a safety harness and educates them on why they need a harness and how to manage it. “If a worker chooses not to use a harness correctly, our company ensures that the proper documentation is in place so that the worker and the company is protected, should an accident take place.
“Legal liability requires that, should someone be providing a particular service for a company, the service provider is liable for the health and safety of the individual’s delivering that service while they are on site,” notes Kilian, adding that it is important to assess if the reasonable practical steps have been taken leading up to an incident.
Further, engineering companies need to be aware that the designers, engineers and architects of a building or a structure are also liable for health and safety, he adds.
“It is all about compliance. If a company is not compliant, we have the right to stop its project’s progress, which can cost money. We like to assist the contractor so that operations can run smoothly,” says
Kilian, pointing out that it is vital for safety consultants to be involved in a project from its inception.
Meanwhile, Safety Solutions Africa notes that health and safety is being taken more seriously by industries.
“In construction, for example, the Department of Labour is amending regulations. “The 2013 draft amendment to the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1993 stipulates that construction cannot take place if certain health and safety regulations, such as the correct work permit, are not in place” says Kilian.
The company adds that there have been a lot more court cases relating to health and safety issues being presented to court, with many prosecutors having to ensure that they stay abreast of the latest health and safety regulations.