How does climate change influence H&S?

How does climate change influence H&S?

I’ve been sceptical about the validity of several studies performed on pollution and its environmental impact. There’s no denying the reality, however, of extreme weather changes and destruction caused by natural disasters.

Besides load shedding, many municipalities have implemented water shedding in periods of drought, after flood damage, or due to ageing infrastructure. Durban experienced severe flooding during April this year, resulting in water cuts throughout the city.

A lack of access to water has a devastating impact on humanity. The resulting unhygienic conditions lead to an escalation of viruses and other illnesses. An employee experiencing sickness will either be booked off work or go to work and potentially infect other people.

Then there is the aspect of mental health, when employees affected by extreme weather will be at a higher risk of injury to themselves or colleagues.

Several international studies have concluded a correlation between extreme heat stress on the body and an increase in workplace accidents. This will have a detrimental effect on a workforce consisting of people who are elderly, living with chronic conditions, immunocompromised, or pregnant.

Given the current challenges of economic decline and load shedding, how do companies find a balance when productivity and profits are key to the survival of an organisation?

Unfortunately, an unskilled worker desperate for employment may not report that they are unable to cope under extreme temperatures. We seldom hear of statistics about occupational fatalities due to heat stroke and stress in South Africa.

Climate change is expected to get worse, and the workforce needs to be prepared with initiatives aimed at educating them on the impact climate change can have on their health. Vulnerable employees, particularly, require proper guidance and advice on risk mitigation.

Do you want to become a chartered member?

Chartered member is the third and highest level of the Saiosh professional designations. It provides an opportunity for persons with degree-level qualifications and five years or more post graduate practical experience to practise at the highest level in the field of occupational health and safety.

This title is not given, however, but earned via further study, experience gained, and the ability to demonstrate such experience and knowledge. The incumbent would be working at a strategic level, possibly at a senior management level, and in some cases at executive management level.

By the evaluated competence of these people, they would be able to demonstrate management functions such as budgets and strategic integrated planning, strong communication skills, and sufficient competence and experience gained in their chosen field.

The purpose of the qualification is to acknowledge the skills acquired for competent practise by chartered OHS professionals across all industry sectors to:

  • Integrate occupational health and safety legislation and practise; integrate occupational health, safety, and hygiene; coordinate and conduct OHS audits; and initiate action plans.
  • Manage health and safety training, conduct training needs analysis, and develop training plans.
  • Coordinate OHS management systems and programmes, and communicate with outside legal or government bodies regarding health and safety.
  • Conduct OHS research.
  • Implement general management principles, including business continuity plans.
  • Implement management skills such as negotiation and manage conflict, budgets, operations, HR requirements, people skills, and strategy.
  • Coordinate occupational health, safety, and risk management integration, defining and quantifying risk against cost, operational efficiency, and implementation scheduling.
  • Testify and be recognised as an expert witness in the field of occupational health and safety.

Members are encouraged to log onto the Saiosh website to view the criteria and apply.

Published by

Sanjay Munnoo

Dr Sanjay Munnoo is a fellow chartered member and President of Saiosh. He is the chief business development officer at FEM and graduated with a PhD in Construction Management from Nelson Mandela University.
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