Staff members have the tendency to believe that they only have to follow instructions or obey orders and that the first-aider or fist aid box will deal with the consequences of an incident. They are wrong. The moment someone thinks something can happen, until the moment an investigation in a subsequent incident has been concluded, any person involved is expected to play a role and can be held accountable.
Humans have the ability to sense or observe imminent danger and to take (mitigating) action.Unfortunately, with the exception of a few, it is human nature to shield away from such responsibility. The South African Occupational Health and Safety Act (Act 85 of 1993), however, does not accept such behavior. The Act is a compilation of do’s and don’t in terms of health and safety in the workplace, but a whole section of the Act is dedicated to the expectations it has on the role employees have to play.
Section 14 of the Act describes the General duties of employees at work. The first responsibility that is pointed out (Section 14.1) is that every employee shall at work ‘take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omission’s. In addition, section 14.4 states that ‘employees shall report any unsafe or unhealthy situation as soon as practicable to the employer or a health and safety representative, who shall then report it to the employer’ while section 14.5 adds that ‘reporting any incident which may affect his health or has caused an injury to himself, to his employer or the health and safety representative not later than the end of the particular shift during which the incident occurred’. If reporting the incident is not possible by the end of the shift, the employee shall then report the incident as soon as practicable thereafter within a maximum of seven days. The above leaves no space for interpretation.
As soon as an incident has occurred authorities, or anybody else involved, will ask the following obvious questions to get closer to the root cause of the incident:
– What happened?
– Who was involved or responsible?
– Where were they at the time of the incident?
– When exactly did the incident happen?
– Why did it happen?
– How did it happen?
If it is established that a person had any prior knowledge related to the incident, this person will certainly have a case to answer to. Answer in such a case can be a challenge as the South African Occupational Health and Safety Act considers a person to be guilty until proven innocent. Claiming innocence is not enough according to the act. Section 14.2 of the Act states that ‘every employee shall at work co-operate with the employer and other persons to enable them to carry out any duty imposed on the by the Act’. They also have to (Section 14.3) ‘carry out any lawful order given to him, and obey all health and safety rules and procedures laid down by this employer or anyone authorized by this employer, in the interest of health and safety’.
When inspecting premises MAKROSAFE Health and Safety consultants not only focus on listing possible matters that soon can attribute to an incident; they also ensure that staff is aware of the imminent danger. More importantly; they will also establish why no action has been taken yet. Reducing injuries on duty and ensuring a safe and healthy workplace is not only a responsibility of those tasked with ensuring it, it also requires the combined efforts of those tasked with performing the required productive actions at work.
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