New OSH offering
Afroteq Advisory, a subsidiary of the AFMS Group and one of South Africa’s leading providers of integrated facilities-management and professional services in the built environment sector, has expanded its service offering in the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) sector by acquiring a division of OHS Africa.
“Over the past few years, we have identified that our clients (particularly those in the built environment sector) are experiencing a growing need for expert OHS advice,” explains Andre Michau, a director of Afroteq Advisory.
“We are therefore very excited to expand our existing OHS Management System, which is aligned to ISO 45001:2018 standards, into a fully fledged, stand-alone division that is integrated with our Quality Management System and operational practices and service agreements.”
Robert Palmer, head of the new OHSAfroteq division, notes that there has been a sharp increase in the number of new laws and regulations being introduced under the OHS Act of 1993. These are aimed at safeguarding the rights, health and well-being of both the employer and employees.
“This Act has made it a legal requirement for all businesses to maintain health and safety in the workplace,” he explains. “However, the recent outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted that many South African companies and institutions fail to comply with this legislation.”
According to Palmer, it is of vital importance for every company, organisation and school to have an approved, workable health and safety plan in place that protects its workers, staff, pupils or visitors entering its premises.
To this end, the Department of Cooperative Government released directives and regulations, in terms of the Disaster Management Act section 27(2), which is aligned with the OHS Act and regulations, to ensure the health and safety of employees and visitors in the workplace.
This gazette clearly spells out the OHS measures that must be in place before workers are allowed to return to work as lockdown restrictions are eased. Failure to comply with the OHS Act, or not having the required documentation in place, could prompt the government to force the company to close down. It could also give rise to costly personal injury litigation if employees or a member of the public contract the virus while on the premises.
Completing a Covid-19 risk assessment
The first step to ensure compliance with the OHS Act is to complete a preparedness audit and a detailed Covid-19 Risk Assessment. This involves an OHSAfroteq consultant visiting the site for an audit, during which several pertinent questions will be asked.
“Our job is to ensure ongoing compliance, identifying potential hazards and mitigating possible risks. However, because we objectively inspect the premises from a facilities management perspective, we are also interested in saving our clients time, money and resources,” Palmer explains.
He adds that companies must be able to demonstrate to the inspector that they have the necessary paperwork, precautions and practical solutions in place to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading the virus. This includes introducing non-invasive screening mechanisms, creating isolation stations for pupils or workers who show possible signs of infection, ensuring that adequate and easily accessible sanitation stations are in place and developing a plan to ensure continued social distancing (without compromising efficiency or practicality).
Once a company, construction site or school opens its doors, it will be subject to an inspection by a departmental investigator who will inspect the premises to ensure compliance. Failure to meet these standards could result in serious consequences, such as hefty fines, imprisonment or both as well as closure of the facility.
“Never before has the need for health and safety in the workplace been as prevalent as it is right now. Experts agree that this demand will only continue to increase as we face the possibility of more outbreaks, or prepare to contend with new dangers and threats in the future,” says Palmer. “OHSAfroteq is passionate about equipping and empowering companies to face these challenges with confidence and with minimal disruption to their operations.”