Posted on: March 22, 2011 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 0

Directors and sheq officials who lack health and safety compliance skills, put their companies at risk. Training, and not professionalisation, is required.

LexisNexis GM of Compliance, Danie Bosman, argues for tertiary skills before professionalisation. “The current debate on whether an independent self-regulatory body and professional titles could tighten sheq compliance and reduce loss incidents, is pointless in the absence of legal SHEQ compliance inspections.”

Some companies employ unskilled sheq personnel, without qualifications or experience recommended for their particular industries and jobs. Unskilled sheq recruits lead business and industry into risk and loss in the long run.

Companies should appoint compliance and safety officers who are adequately trained and who have the knowledge to implement compliance systems.

“SHEQ professionals should have at least four years of continuous tertiary education and at least two years of concentrated experience.”

Beyond hiring skilled sheq people, directors, CEOs and top management should also understand regulation, legal responsibilities, accountability policies, and implementation of compliant occupational health and safety management systems. Many companies remain uncertain of health and safety regulation.

Risk in legal ignorance

Risk taking at work has become common practice, and often employee wellbeing comes ‘second’, despite the often heard ‘safety first’ slogan.

Inadequate understanding of procedures and legalities involved with the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1993 in business operations, could lead to injuries, unfavourable business reputation, and investigations by the Department of Labour.

Directors and senior managers should lead their organisations to appropriate risk tolerance, instead of facing non-compliance risks.     

Risk appetite costs money

Most company directors consider occupational health, safety and quality compliance as a short term cost, rather than a long term investment. Many leaders install minimum compliance requirements, at best.

Compliance motivation is usually merely to avoid penalties enforced by the Department of Labour, but this approach devalues the life, wellbeing and values of employees in turn, since many company executives see their workforce as a production commodity.

Instead of ensuring conformity with regulation, many companies accept high risks and believe that they underwrite the costs of non compliance to insurance. They attempt to ‘transfer’ the risk of not complying with the law, but this approach is often more costly in the long run, since it does not consider impacts on life, health, society, environment, and business reputation.

Construction culture problem

In mining and construction sectors, it is well known that without strict control in and around the working environment, companies expose workers to unsafe conditions and run multiple risks.

In several recent preventable incidents, construction workers were buried alive in sand, soil, concrete or waste. Employers have to ensure safe working conditions in dynamic environments, yet there is little compliance with regulation and procedures in several trades.

As a country with world class infrastructure, South African companies’ safety adherence still lags far behind that of global standards and requirements.

• PHOTO; Danie Bosman is GM of Compliance at LexisNexis.

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