Hazardous Chemical Substances

Navigating a Safe Course: Hazardous Chemical Substances in the Food, Drinks and Tobacco Industry

The food, drinks and tobacco industry is a cornerstone of South Africa's economy. Yet, behind the scenes of delicious meals and refreshing beverages lies a complex web of potential workplace hazards. Many processes within this industry involve hazardous substances that can pose a significant risk to worker health and safety. But fear not, navigating this landscape doesn't have to be a recipe for disaster.  This article equips employers with the knowledge and resources to ensure a safe and compliant work environment.

Legislative Landscape in South Africa

South Africa boasts a robust legal framework governing hazardous substances in the workplace. The cornerstone of this framework is the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS Act), 85 of 1993. This act outlines the duties of employers to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their workers. Specific regulations under the OHS Act further detail these duties, including:

The Hazardous Chemical Substances Regulations (GNR 1179 of 2003) - These regulations classify hazardous substances, outline labelling requirements, and mandate the creation of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all such substances.

The Confined Spaces Regulations (GNR 1038 of 1994) - These regulations are particularly relevant for the food and beverage industry, where cleaning and maintenance of tanks and silos can involve confined spaces.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

The consequences of non-compliance with health and safety regulations can be severe.  Fines, imprisonment, and even civil lawsuits can arise from incidents caused by neglecting worker safety.  More importantly, the human cost of non-compliance can be devastating.  Exposure to hazardous substances can lead to a range of health problems, from respiratory issues to skin conditions and even cancer.

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Benefits of Compliance

Investing in worker safety goes beyond simply avoiding penalties. A safe work environment fosters numerous benefits for employers, including:

Reduced absenteeism and worker turnover: A healthy workforce means fewer sick days and a more stable team.

Improved morale and productivity: When employees feel safe, they are more engaged and productive.

Enhanced brand reputation: Consumers are increasingly concerned about ethical production practices. Demonstrating a commitment to worker safety can boost your brand image.

Best Practices for Navigating Hazardous Chemical Substances

Here are some key best practices to ensure your workplace is safe for everyone:

Comprehensive hazard identification: Identify all hazardous substances used or produced in your workplace. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are a crucial resource for understanding the associated risks of each substance.

Risk assessment: Evaluate the potential risks associated with each hazardous substance. Consider factors like the amount used, the likelihood of exposure, and the severity of potential harm.

Implementation of control measures: Based on your risk assessments, put in place control measures to minimise worker exposure. This might involve engineering controls like ventilation systems, administrative controls like work procedures, or the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Training and communication: Provide comprehensive training to all employees on the hazards they may encounter, safe work procedures, and the proper use of PPE.

Regular monitoring and auditing: Regularly monitor your workplace for potential hazards and conduct health and safety compliance audits to ensure your control measures remain effective.

If you have any questions, please feel free to speak to one of our Experts

Top 10 Fails to Avoid

Here are some common pitfalls to avoid when dealing with hazardous substances:

Lack of awareness: Not recognising the presence of hazardous substances in your workplace.

Inadequate training: Employees not receiving proper training on safe handling procedures.

Insufficient PPE: Not providing the right type of PPE or failing to ensure it's properly maintained.

Poor labelling and signage: Incorrectly labelled containers or missing hazard warnings.

Improper storage: Storing hazardous substances in unsafe locations or incompatible containers.

Ineffective ventilation: Not providing adequate ventilation to remove airborne contaminants.

Poor housekeeping: Spills and leaks not being cleaned up promptly.

Failure to report incidents: Near misses and minor incidents not being reported, preventing corrective measures.

Lack of emergency preparedness: No plan in place to respond to spills, fires, or other emergencies involving hazardous substances.

Neglecting maintenance: Safety equipment and ventilation systems not being regularly maintained and inspected.


MAKROSAFE, an authorised dealership of SafetyWallet, understands the unique challenges faced by the food, drinks and tobacco industry.  In partnership with OHS Online and the Triple P HSMS, MAKROSAFE offers a comprehensive suite of services to assist employers in navigating hazardous substances:

Health and safety courses: MAKROSAFE provides a variety of OHS-accredited courses to train your employees on safe handling procedures

Risk assessments: Their team of experienced safety professionals can conduct thorough risk assessments of your workplace, identifying potential hazards specific to your industry.

Compliance audits: MAKROSAFE can perform audits to identify any gaps in your current safety program and ensure compliance with relevant legislation.

SafetyWallet: SafetyWallet is a user-friendly online platform that allows you to manage all your safety documents and procedures electronically. Following an audit, MAKROSAFE can assist you in uploading your findings and implementing corrective actions.

OHS Online: Through their partnership with OHS Online, MAKROSAFE can provide you with access to a vast library of safety resources, including Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and online safety training modules.

Triple P HSMS: The Triple P HSMS (Policies, Procedures, and Practices) is a comprehensive health and safety management system that can help you develop, implement, and maintain a robust safety program tailored to your specific needs.

Navigating hazardous substances in the food, drinks and tobacco industry doesn't have to be a daunting task. By prioritising worker safety, employers can reap significant benefits for their business and their employees. MAKROSAFE, with their expertise and suite of services, can be your trusted partner on this journey.

Taking the next step:

Contact MAKROSAFE today for a free consultation to discuss your specific needs and how they can help you create a safe and compliant workplace for everyone. Remember, a commitment to safety is an investment in the future of your business and the well-being of your employees.

Embrace a culture of safety today. Contact MAKROSAFE to learn more about their hazardous substance management services and how partnering with SafetyWallet can elevate your overall safety program.
Any questions? Speak to one of our Experts

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