OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY ARE WE MEETING THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE ACT?
The Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 was promulgated in 1993 and implemented in January 1994. This Act placed duties on the employer in regard to protection of their employees and community. It also provides the requirements the employer must implement to ensure compliance with this Act and its Regulations. One of these duties is to assess the risk on his/her site and then to take appropriate action (Section 8).
What was required of the employer’s risk assessment?
Existing industries used what they had in practice and these assessments varied. The various professionals - Safety Practitioners, Occupational Hygienists, Occupational Health Practitioners and others each performed risk assessments and these were used as the risk assessment for this organisation, activity or process. Did the legislator envisage this or was his/her vision a broader more comprehensive Occupational Health and Safety Risk Assessment?
An Occupational Health and Safety Risk Assessment would assess all the various aspects which can impact on the industry, organisation, plant or facility, activity and allocate risk to each impact/element and identify levels of compliance and provide recommendations to mitigate against these risks. This assessment should rate the risks, prioritize the risks and to enable the critical risks to be solved first.
What would be included in such an Occupational Health and Safety Risk assessment?
The basic elements to consider would be
-Facility/Plant Design and Operation
-Education/training and communication
-Special or specific environments such as
-major hazardous installations
- confined spaces
- work at heights
- flooding etc
-Management Occupational and Safety Systems/Programs
It is also envisaged that the legislator also required and still requires management/employers (CEO) to also assess some of public or community health and safety risks (Section 9) which his/her processes and /or activities may impact on. This would include the surroundings, the environment, its inhabitants and also the general public and maybe also interested and affected parties.
The impacts of these processes and/or activities could result in a number of issues. These would include
-pollution of the environmental - air, land or water
-contamination of community
-impacts/potential impacts of major hazardous installations
-traffic safety issues or problems for particular circumstances and/or projects
-access control problems
-site specific issues
-increase or introduce of diseases
-risks associated with transportation of hazardous materials
-emergency preparedness and response requires
-water and /or waste water quality problems
-structural safety risks
-environmental health and safety issues
All the above can be assessed and rated according to the risk obtained
Risk Assessments can be qualitative or quantitative. In general the Occupational Health and Safety Risk Assessment discussed above are likely to be qualitative. Qualitative Risk Assessments identify the risk, assess it and make judgements using matrixes. Quantitative risk assessments also identify risks assess the risk(s) and evaluate potential risks when qualitative methods cannot provide adequate understanding of the risk and more information is required for risk management to make judgements of risks.
The elements in an Occupational Health and Safety Risk Assessment will be discussed in more detail using a practical case study to issue the basic requirements for each of the elements in the Occupational Health and Safety Risk Assessment.
For new project the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) generally requires either a comprehensive Occupational Health and Safety Risk Assessment or a number of individual risk assessments and/or evaluations based on the outcomes of the scoping document(s).
The requirements for a comprehensive Occupational Health and Safety Risk Assessment will be discussed using the construction of a new road as the case study. This should identify that such risk assessments are necessary and provide value to the employer in the design as well the construction and operational phases of a project.
Construction of a new road can be broken down into a number of phases. In the discussion of the Occupational Health and Safety Risk Assessment it will be divided into preparation, construction and operational phase.