Navigating challenges

Navigating challenges

Sadly, the recent crime statistics released by the Minister of Police indicate little improvement over the past decade. During the first three months of 2023, more than 6,200 murders and 10,500 rapes occurred in South Africa. An average of 70 murders and 116 rape cases every day in this 90-day period is outrageous.

Our condolences and sympathies go out to all those affected. Amongst these cases, some murders would certainly have occurred at the workplace. How could a risk assessment have prevented this?

A “safety attitude” is to always be aware that some harm can occur to you and to recognise that safety is everyone’s responsibility. Yet the high number of annual fatalities and diseases reported on a global scale continues unabated.

A typical example of an occupational accident is a brick or metal pipe falling onto an employee’s head while they work, but sometimes things are more complicated. In one instance, a foreman was reprimanding an employee, which led to an argument. Unfortunately the foreman wasn’t aware of that individual’s state of mind on the day; the argument ended with the aggressor repeatedly hitting the foreman on his head with a spade.

The events arising out of this injury were catastrophic for the foreman and his family. The key takeaway here is to never assume that a person you are in conflict with or reprimanding shares your perceptions of reality or your values.

Health and safety (H&S) statistics, whether from aggressors or “normal” incidents, always alarm conference attendees, leading to requests for more information or case studies. Yet, when I review an employer’s accident stats, the cause and location of injuries on workers point to recurrent accidents.

I highly recommend H&S practitioners use the information and case studies from H&S conferences, then arrange for workshops at their workplace. Get buy-in from colleagues to target and prevent the most common causes of accidents: struck-by, slips, and over-exertion or falls from height.

Maintaining compliance with H&S regulations is important, but I believe that developing a customised H&S programme in conjunction with compliance will provide tremendous benefits to prevent injuries for colleagues at work.

The internet is a highly useful platform for obtaining H&S information or recommended programmes. Imagine if we provided all workers with the opportunity to watch videos portraying the consequences of unsafe practices?

I often wonder what makes practitioners passionate about H&S. I recall one of the individuals who influenced my own passion: past Saiosh president, Robin Jones.

Earlier in my career, I used to travel across KwaZulu-Natal to investigate motor vehicle accidents. Some of the memories were gruesome and all I could feel was empathy for the victims. I still have flashbacks of an accident crash scene between two trucks and a minibus taxi. I met a lady being treated and thought about the events – this person woke up in the morning and followed her normal routine, never once thinking about the possibility of being involved in a crash. This is the cruel reality of life.

I remember that the young lady was worrying about her children, despite her fear, desperation, and concern about how she was going to afford the medical expenses. This reminded me of how the foremost quality of any H&S practitioner should be to have a caring nature – specifically, caring about people. No safety programme or culture can be implemented without empathy for one another.

I wish to thank the Saiosh stakeholders for their continued support and participation in the Saiosh conference. We honour and thank Saiosh members for their professionalism and dedication to making the workplace healthier and safer, so that workers can go home safe to their families.

Health and safety regards.

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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