Employee health and safety in the workplace must remain a top priority.
It has been a dreary and depressing few months interacting with companies that have been in the process of retrenching staff. Concerned staff, some of whom had been loyal to a company for over a decade, have to come to the realisation that they would have to find alternative work and means to support their families.
Academics suggest that the financial hardship and mental stress for workers losing their jobs during an economic recession is likely to increase the risk of ill health and even mortality.
In South Africa, as many as 100 000 people lost their jobs from April to June this year. The official unemployment rate in the second quarter of 2018 increased to 27,2 percent compared to the first quarter rate of 26,7 percent.
After growing by 3,1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017, the South Africa economy contracted in the first quarter of 2018, shrinking by 2,2 percent quarter-on-quarter, according to the latest information from Statistics South Africa.
Primary industries that contributed to the slowdown included agriculture, mining and manufacturing, with the electricity, construction and trade industries also recording negative growth.
It is important to note that certain groups in the workforce are potentially more vulnerable than others. For example, older or unskilled workers may be affected more than other employees.
Reports from developed countries during the 2008 financial crisis concluded that important organisational functions, such as training, purchasing new work equipment and innovation, are predominantly affected. This imposes significant pressure on the working conditions of employees including challenges with the management of occupational health and safety.
For example, the recent fatalities in the mining industry were widely condemned by society, leading to legal action being taken by the shareholders. Business leaders should therefore be aware of the disadvantages of aggressive cost-cutting plans.
Costs of poor health and safety are high as a result of:
• Fatalities and disabilities;
• Absenteeism or sick leave;
• Damaged equipment associated with occupational injuries;
• Time and money spent on injury investigation, workplace assessments;
• Changes to The Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) or insurance premiums, due to the incidence of injuries and occupational illnesses;
• Production time lost as a consequence of an event which results in injury.
Companies should be reminded of the benefits of well-managed health and safety programmes. Some of the potential benefits are:
• Fewer accidents;
• Reduced costs for facilities, energy, materials, increased productivity and reduced personnel cost;
• Improved quality of products and services;
• Lower medical costs;
• Improved well-being, job satisfaction and working climate;
• Reduced compensation payments;
• Maintaining a “positive” organisation image.
News from Saiosh
Another chapter has been added to Saiosh. The Saiosh Health and Safety Training Advisory Committee (SHASTAC) was approved by the Saiosh Council after numerous training providers asked for advice, direction and assistance, after the Department of Labour promulgated in
the Government Gazette (No 41350 dated
December 22, 2017) Notice 1463:
“Amended Notice of Direction in terms of Section 27(2) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, read with Regulation 3(4) of the General Safety: The purpose for the establishment of the SHASTAC is for the committee to advise Saiosh on all matters related to short courses in occupational health and safety (OHS) in order for Saiosh to lobby on behalf of its corporate members that provide these courses.”
SHASTAC conducted a survey with all Saiosh members (and non-members) in the training industry. SHASTAC has been engaging with the Department of Labour (DoL), Quality Council of Trades and Occupations (QCTO) and the Health and Welfare Seta (HWseta).
The Saiosh Council thanks SHASTAC for what it has accomplished in a short space of time.
We are proud to announce that Siven Naidoo (Saiosh nominee) has been appointed by the minister of public works to the South African Council for Project and Construction Management Professions fifth term of council for 2018 to 2022. Saiosh congratulates him and wishes him all the best for the upcoming term of office.
Saiosh and IOSH United Kingdom have had several meetings to learn about and support each other’s initiatives. Saiosh CEO, Neels Nortje, has been invited to attend the IOSH Annual Conference in September. We look forward to learning more about its research department and how it can add value in the context of health and safety in South Africa.