The annual Nosa Noshcon conference has been a mainstay on the South African occupational health, safety and environment calendar for the past 67 years. The 2018 event, held on September 12, offered the expected mix of food for thought. Here are a few highlights.

Noshcon 2018 kicked off with a gripping presentation by venture capitalist and business speaker Vusi Thembekwayo.

“September 11 was a huge catalyst for change. Those that perpetrated (or disrupted) weren’t playing by the rules of the United States of America,” he began. “This happens every day in our businesses. Our disruptors don’t play by our rules… As such we need to be able to identify risks we don’t yet understand.”

Thembekwayo commented that the world will experience a fundamental shift in the next five years, with the retail, mining and banking sectors specifically shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs.

“Most companies are stuck in 1998. The hyper-information revolution will advance companies – will yours be one of them?” he challenged. “When the context of our environment changes, we think our competencies will translate – in fact half of what we know becomes irrelevant. There are some organisations that understand how to manage this and others that don’t.”

Nosa MD, Duncan Carlisle, opens the conference.

As the global context is changing, said Thembekwayo, so, too, is that of South Africa. Teams and businesses need to know how they will respond.

“When change happens, what are you going to do? It’s not going to wait for you… People in South Africa today are not willing to ‘press the green button’. We need to be empowered to make a call when needed.

“Making critical decisions scares most of us. Getting it wrong can have huge consequences, getting it right brings massive rewards. Make the call, even if it’s wrong. If you’re looking to make the right decisions all the time, you’ll never make decisions. The worst that can happen is that you make the wrong decision, and get the chance to correct it,” he concluded.

Food Safety

Venisha Bachlal, MD: Nosa Food Safety, discussed food safety within the context of the recent listeriosis outbreak.

According to the World Health Organisation, unsafe food caused more than 200 diseases in 2017. An estimated 600-million people fall ill every year from eating contaminated food (that’s one in ten people in the world), with 420 000 deaths a year (125 000 of which are children under the age of five – who carry 40 percent of the disease burden from contaminated food).

“These statistics probably exclude South Africa, and those on listeriosis are also probably incorrect,” says Bachlal, adding that the Department of Health was not proactive enough in acknowledging and tackling the situation, nor did it provide sufficient information about the disease to the public.

Saiosh CEO, Neels Nortje, discusses professional registration for health and safety practitioners.

“Much more is known about food safety internationally; whereas in South Africa we are now starting to take notice following the listeriosis outbreak,” commented Bachlal.

“What did we learn from the epidemic? We should have a broader knowledge of what’s going on with the food we eat. Listeria monocytogenes (bacteria) are found everywhere, not just in Enterprise products – 90 percent of raw meat contains it. People need to be educated.”

Bachlal then discussed the new R638 Regulations Governing General Hygiene Requirements for Food Premises, the Transport of Food and Related Matters, which replaced the previous R962 on June 22.

“If any country experiences an outbreak of infectious disease, the government should implement new/stricter food regulations immediately. These new regulations ensure only minimum legal requirements; the previous critical points are worse now. It’s a joke,” she commented.

Among other things, the new regulation addresses the issues of Certificates of Acceptability, the duties of the person in charge, standards for food premises, standards for storage and fines for contravention.

However, it’s not all criticism. “The word ‘shall’ has been replaced with either ‘must’ or ‘may not’. This is very good as it removes any grey areas!” Bachlal said.

Regional awards were handed out during breakfast.

ISO 45001

In what was possibly the most well-attended session of the day, Thea van Tonder, CEO of Wiseworks, discussed the new ISO 45001 standard and its advances over the outgoing ISO 18001.

“The biggest challenge with ISO 18001 was getting leadership to take responsibility. That was one of the main reasons for the change,” she comments.

“The changes are quite significant. They are aligned to a new high-level structure, which means companies don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It’s easier to integrate systems and more cost-effective because of fewer audit mandates. Worker participation is also key,” Van Tonder explained, adding that the standard no longer follows a one-size-fits-all approach.

The ISO 45001 standard is less prescriptive than before and prioritises the answers to meeting safety requirements, more than the processes to get there.    

“Organisations must understand the internal and external influences on their health, safety and environmental issues. The standard states what needs to be done; how it’s done depends on the context of the organisation. The standard must work for the organisation, not the other way around,” she noted.

While the previous standard made it easy to delegate, the new standard ensures that the context of an organisation determines how roles and responsibilities are defined.

“Make people responsible to ensure the standard works. Those in leadership roles at different levels need to understand their risks and take responsibility. When things are not working it’s because roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined,” Van Tonder said.

In closing, Justin Hobday, sales and marketing director, Nosa, commented that Nosa will be launching its mobile app for ISO 45001, in addition to its other mobile solutions, such as the driver-assessment app used when conducting driver training, as explained by Andrew Hay, BD manager, Nosa Logistics.

Look out for our next issue, the inaugural SHEQ MANAGEMENT Handbook, for the 2018 winners of the Nosa Noscar awards.

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