Legislation on health and safety in South Africa is complex and can appear overwhelming, but it offers the industry some guidance on best practices and obligations, while software can play an important role in compliance.

Occupational health and safety (OHS) officers face a unique challenge when it comes to legislation. They need to comply with the national OHS Act, health and safety legislation and international standards set by professional bodies, while also adhering to industry-specific legislation applicable to their specific work environment.

With legislation and standards changing frequently, it can be difficult for OHS officers to stay abreast of these changes. Professional bodies such as the South African Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Saiosh) offer assistance to OHS officers with frequent workshops and seminars to update them on the latest developments, while software can help organise the long list of regulations.

There is, for example, software that acts as a site-specific legal register of all the sections of legislation with which OHS officers need to comply, offering valuable information on how to do this. Many of these systems are designed for compliance specialists with search functions to find all related legislation, even if the key search word does not appear in any of the legislation.

Software can also be key to the day-to-day activities of OHS officers in complying with legislation. African Human Logistics (AHL) supplies INX Software, and provides implementation and support in Africa. The INX System has a number of modules that can operate as stand-alone applications or with one another in combination.

Francois Steyn, senior implementation and training consultant at AHL, notes: “The INX InControl module manages safety, health and environment (SHE)-related incidents, audits, inspections, meetings, observations and actions. It provides automated follow-up, escalation, scheduling for monthly reporting and various analysis tools.

“It also has a comprehensive risk-management tool. INX InHealth manages occupational health and hygiene processes and data,” he adds.

The INX InViron is AHL’s environmental monitoring and measurement module that allows clients to capture an extensive range of environmental monitoring programmes across air, water, soil, climate, waste, emissions, flora and fauna, vibration and more.

Steyn explains: “Data can be manually or automatically entered, uploaded from spreadsheets or integrated from the client’s laboratory, with results validated against set thresholds to ensure that any differences are highlighted and the relevant people are automatically notified.”

This system allows companies to centralise their SHE records with a single date repository. It enables a business to improve its SHE with instant, on-demand records.

“Notifications are sent via email for tasks and actions assigned as well as expiry on compliances and permits. Overdue items are escalated to ensure that important tasks are closed out. INX allows the tracking of lagging indicators, like incidents, and also leading indicators, such as inspections, meetings, audits, observations and interactions – which more pro-active businesses are starting to do and are seeing the benefits,” Steyn notes.

He points out, however, that it is important to manage expectations when implementing SHE-management software systems – a common challenge for the industry. Clients and suppliers need to agree on what is expected from the system and what can be delivered. Another big challenge is to understand the resources, checkpoints and deliverables that make up the implementation process.

He says: “Clarification regarding roles and responsibilities is important, as is ensuring that adequate and appropriate client resources are allocated to the project.”

AHL implements the software by arranging planning and configuration meetings where the scope and functionality of the project are agreed on. “Data-upload sheets and configuration templates are supplied to the client, who populates them. We use the received data to build and configure the client’s system. We deploy the system and then conduct training. After training and going live, the software support kicks in,” Steyn explains.

He advises companies to understand the goals and confirm what software is required and what it is expected to do; to ensure there are adequate and appropriate resources available throughout the project; and to make sure that the relevant people attend all the key phases, including workshops, training sessions and tests.

“Nominate a project manager to act as a single point of contact and a champion for the project from the client side, to ensure all stakeholders are engaged and the project is communicated properly internally. Complete a data-cleanse, as any system is only as good as the data that it contains, and use the demonstration or trial site to get the ‘look and feel’ of the software, otherwise it can be difficult to envisage how your data will be presented,” he concludes.

Even with knowledge of the array of legislation and standards with which OHS officers and industries need to comply, implementation can be a challenge. With the correct management tools and software, OHS officers can confidently remain updated and equipped to ensure that every employee goes home safely.

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