In person, with great success

In person, with great success

The South African Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Saiosh) held its tenth Health and Safety Conference from May 31 to June 1 at Johannesburg’s Gallagher Convention Centre. Delegates left enlightened and revigorated after the in-person event, held for the first time since the pandemic took the world by storm.

The Saiosh Health and Safety Conference was once again held alongside A-OSH Expo, the largest platform for occupational safety and health products and services in Africa, after a two-year hiatus.

“What an absolute pleasure to see people again. In 2019, around the same time, we had our ninth annual conference. We were so excited that we immediately booked the venue alongside A-OSH Expo as well for 2020, but I don’t have to tell you what happened,” says Neels Nortjé, Saiosh CEO.

“We were looking forward to the 2020 conference, but it is an absolute pleasure to host this conference in person, mingle, talk, and catch up on the face-to-face interactions that we lost during the past two years.”

The delegates and presenters were kept safe from Covid by the South African GreenFlag Association, which aims to increase public awareness of the importance of proper ventilation of indoor spaces in preventing the transmission of Covid-19. The virus can spread in poorly ventilated or crowded indoor settings, where people tend to spend longer periods of time. This is because aerosols remain suspended in the air.

The GreenFlag Association began at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic as a partnership between leading South African environmental health and safety organisation, Apex Environmental, and enterprise and development agency Supplier Development Initiatives. It achieved the safeguard by monitoring CO2 levels in the auditorium; if the levels increased, it meant that the ventilation had to be adjusted to keep everyone safe from exposure.

“To manage current risk and future pandemic risk we need a step change in how we ventilate shared occupied spaces,” says Garth Hunter, an expert in occupational health and safety at Engen Petroleum and a panellist for the GreenFlag Association. He adds that behaviour change starts with knowledge. “All health and safety professionals need a basic understanding of ventilation. And ventilation systems have to be treated as safety critical equipment.”

More presentations from the conference will be featured in issues 4 and 5 of SHEQ MANAGEMENT.

An awards dinner function was also held at the end of the first day. “Saiosh annually gives two awards, the Saiosh Health and Safety Person of the Year and the Student of the Year awards,” reveals Nortjé.

The former was won by a previous runner up, Johan Heyneke, while the latter was won by Warren Malgas. “If there is any member of Saiosh that is studying for a formal national diploma in safety management, they can nominate themselves and then the member that has achieved the best results wins this award,” Nortjé added. “This year’s winner stood out as he isn’t even a safety officer, he is a safety rep, and he obtained 13 distinctions.”

Intra sponsored the Student of the Year Award as well as the delegate bags. “A special thanks to Intra, SHE Group, who sponsored the awards function/dinner, and the two gold sponsors uvex and FEM, as well as IOSH, one of the lead sponsors.” says Nortjé. “I would also like to thank Dromex, our platinum sponsor.

“We’re truly grateful to our sponsors who kept on sponsoring us during the two-year hiatus. It was a tremendous time for us from a support point of view, but also from everyone that remained members.”

Saiosh is still one of the fastest growing professional bodies in Africa. “This isn’t just for health and safety bodies, we’re talking about all professional bodies,” Nortjé enthuses. “Saiosh has, since its inception nearly 13 years ago, professionally registered more than 20 000 health and safety practitioners on the National Qualifications Framework, and most of them are still members.”

The next Saiosh Annual Health and Safety Conference will take place on June 6 and 7, 2023.

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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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