CHS agents advocate for you

CHS agents advocate for you

A decade ago, new regulations stipulated that all construction health and safety (H&S) agents, managers, and officers had to register with the South African Council for Project and Construction Management Professions (SACPCMP). Clients are reaping the benefits to this day.

Justin Nash, group MD at IRCA Global – a leading risk management solutions provider in the areas of safety, health, environment, and quality – says there are a lot of negative feelings in the market around the registration required by the SACPCMP. Monnakgotla Ledikwa, an IRCA Global professional construction H&S agent, agrees. “There have been many unfounded negative sentiments about the SACPCMP. Prior to H&S professionals being required to register with them, there was no statutory body in place to regulate things by law. Now that the field is professionalised, some who do not meet the minimum requirements feel aggrieved,” he says.

The regulations hold many benefits, though. “Someone with a H&S background must be present from the start of a project, to guide the team and keep everyone safe – not only on site, but also the occupants who will use the building and those who have to maintain it,” Ledikwa notes.

There are three registration categories determined by the SACPCMP: construction H&S officer, manager, or agent. To register, individuals must be qualified, with a certain amount of experience determined by the specific category. The higher the qualification level, the less experience is required.

“IRCA’s training department offers short courses and we also have a company in the group – the IRCA Global Tertiary Institute – a registered higher education institute that is developing degree programmes to help to improve the level of training in South Africa,” says Nash. “A number of IRCA courses are SACPCMP-accredited to give Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points, so that people can maintain their status.” 

Clients, and even some within the construction industry, need to be better informed on the three registration categories. “Many people can’t really distinguish what each of the registered categories can do. So, for example, a client may hire an officer to do an agent’s work. This puts them at risk, as they’ve hired someone for a specific job who isn’t necessarily clued up on what work should be done,” explains Ledikwa.

“The SACPCMP drafted the scope of standard services for all three categories based on project lifecycles and six stages: inception, concepts, design, procurement, execution or implementation, and closeout,” he continues. He emphasises that a manager can only participate from stage four (procurement) onwards, and an officer from stage five (execution/implementation). “A professional agent is highly skilled, specialises in construction H&S, and has a minimum qualification of a diploma. They can participate across all project stages,” he says.

Agents looking after clients’ interests must be appointed by the client, but officers and managers can be appointed by a contractor. “The main purpose of an agent is to ensure that all construction H&S issues are addressed, even during the earliest project stages. This takes everything into consideration and provides mitigatation against all risks and hazards,” says Ledikwa.

These include the constructability and maintainability of a structure, as well as considering various factors, such as how a multi-story building’s windows will be cleaned or how a roof will be maintained. Agents also help to mitigate unforeseen circumstances such as previously unidentified wetlands or an informal settlement that may have appeared on-site.

Ledikwa adds that the scope of standard services was drafted to correct the historical

misconception that H&S practitioners just had to be brought on as a compliance exercise at or near completion of a construction project. Rather, contractors should have been sourced and be working by the time designs are finalised.

IRCA Global can assist anyone looking for an officer, manager, or agent to advocate for them. It also supplies information on the scope of standard professional services. 

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SHEQ MANAGEMENT is the definitive source for reliable, accurate and pertinent information to guarantee environmental health and safety in the workplace.
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