Independent News thrives to achieve consistent H&S Compliance

Independent Newspapers is South Africa's largest newspaper group. The company publishes more than 30 daily and weekly newspapers in the country's 3 major metropolitan areas. These newspapers include The Cape Times, Cape Argus, The Mercury, The Star, Daily News and Pretoria News. The main offices are situated in Johannesburg and Services Manager, Joseph Mohoaduba, ensures productivity runs smoothly every day.

Joseph Mohoaduba, Operations Manager, Independent News
Joseph Mohoaduba, Operations Manager, Independent News

Independent Newspapers has been a client of MAKROSAFE for the past eleven years. Independent News is in the business of reporting on the changing world every day, but when it comes to health and safety, Joseph is confronted with changes daily. Closely working with MAKROSAFE, he is playing his part.

Overview of the Health and Safety Compliance of the company

Health and safety was a major challenge in the days when Independent Newspapers used to have a printing department onsite. The huge printing machines could pose possible hazards continuously. However, since the printing is being outsourced, the current set up is an office set up with mostly computers and desks. This poses lower risk and the Health and Safety Compliance has been good in recent years with no incidents reported in the past two years.

Introduction to the MAKROSAFE Health and Safety Programme

MAKROSAFE renders Independent News with the complete scope of health and safety services. The MAKROSAFE consultant, Jaydee Le Roux visits the premises every month to ensure the MAKROSAFE health and safety programme is adhered to. For the past one and a half years that Jaydee has been the Consultant for Independent News, the newspaper house has recorded no incident at all. The fact that the MAKROSAFE's Health and Safety Programme is 100% aligned with OHSAS 18001 management system can be considered as a major contributing factor.

Occupational Health and Safety Compliance policy according to MAKROSAFE consultant

Working environment at Independent News
Working environment at Independent News

When Le Roux inspects the premises, he does not only look out for new hazards but he also ensures that the recommendation that he suggested in his previous report where implemented correctly. Le Roux looks out for possible common hazards such as those that can cause slips, trips and falls. These incidents still top the list of possible health and safety risks in offices. Overloading the electrical power supply is also likely to happen in an environment where computers, cell-phones, printers and many other electrical devices are required. As the newspaper also has electricians that are employed full time, they deal with electrical problems that may arise, immediately. For Le Roux, this means that, during every Health and Safety Audit, he has to verify if work was done correctly and according to requirements stated by law.

Occupational Health and Safety Compliance policy by Independent News

Joseph shares that, at Independent News, one of their top priorities between health and safety of employees is more their safety. That is why they have a good access control system for people entering the building.

Access control at Independent News
Access control at Independent News

This is because their company is situated in Johannesburg CBD where safety and security is a major risk for all businesses. Also, the fact that journalist produce news that may be sensitive and provoking to others, Independent News has gone to great length to prevent employees from retaliation. An access control system ensures that visitors are verified before entering the premises and the person they are visiting must personally come and meet their visitors at reception.

Independent Newspapers has put measures in place that allows their core staff, the journalists and photographers to focus on their job while their well-being is guaranteed by other specialists once they go off-site. Since news crews have to go out to get the news, they are usually ferried around by drivers. This allows journalists to focus on their stories and leave traffic and other health and safety challenges in the hands of the driver. All drivers have been subjected to advanced driving skills programmes. The drivers also have the responsibility of safe-guarding journalists while they do their work. If an area is considered to be extremely high-risk, a security company is called in to escort the journalists in their work duties off-site.

Leadership and Management Commitment to Health & Safety

Joseph highlights that management is very committed to health and safety. Even the Head of HR has displayed commitment that she pro-actively plays the role of a health and safety officer. Joseph himself is part of the management team and reports to HR department. While the commitment by management is undisputed, assembling a team that monitors adherence to health and safety every day seems to be more of a challenge. As employees work in shifts which, often includes, working till late at night or over the weekend, it is challenging to sign up enough health and safety representatives. But the health and safety department still finds a way to work around these challenges and has significantly succeeded.

Health and Safety Compliance planning

Due to the fact that the Independent News offices are spread over an 8-storey building, health and safety can be a challenge. The fact that the building is over 100 years old, doesn't make things easier as the society, as well as the way newsrooms operate, have changed extensively. Compliance with the law is not always easily achieved. But Joseph has it carefully planned. On each floor, there are employees skilled in fighting fires and performing First Aid. Also, fire and first aid equipment is abundantly available on each floor. The entire building is equipped with 400 fire extinguishers and emergency exits allow employees from each floor to safely evacuate in case on an incident. Together with MAKROSAFE, all technical challenges related to the building are assessed regularly and new solutions are considered to remain compliant.

Hazard Identification, Risk Assessment and Determining Controls

MAKROSAFE has assisted in identifying hazards, assessing them and discussing and implementing control measures. The findings of this exercise are recorded and captured in a report which, often, is finalized while the consultant is still on-site. MAKROSAFE consultants visit a maximum of one client a day to ensure they have sufficient time to conduct their inspections and compile the report while the information is still fresh in their mind.

Objectives and Health and Safety Programme

To generate and proactively hype health and safety, toolbox talks and team building sessions are conducted at Independent News. Employees understand the importance of health and safety in improving productivity hence; they positively participate in these events. Also, new employees are thoroughly educated on health and safety and any latest developments in health and safety are communicated to all employees, immediately. Joseph also has the benefit that journalists will proactively report or raise matters they come across when visiting other locations.

Health and safety implementation & operational Controls

Despite the fact that most of Independent News operations are a low risk, each floor still has a Head of Department who in turn appoints supervisors to ensure all operations are safe and are according to correct standards.

Health and safety competence, training and awareness

All employees are trained in health and safety, especially in First aid and Fire fighting. There are over 10 fire fighters in the premises and many first aiders always available if case of an emergency. A fire evacuation drill is done once every year to equip employees with skills on how to safely escape a building without escalating the rate of incident. To assist disabled employees or visitors in case of an evacuation, Independent News provides evacuation chairs that can be used to comfortably carry disabled people downstairs. The policy however, is to keep most employees on the lower levels of the building for easy evacuation. New employees that join the company during the year are also provided with induction training. Training is done onsite by a MAKROSAFE facilitator.

Communication, Participation and Consultation in health and safety issues

MAKROSAFE assist Independent News with any issues that they might have concerning health and safety. The skilled consultant will suggest corrective measures against any hazard or issue raised. When health and safety measures or information is shared with employees, Joseph ensures he does an assessment later to see if the information was well understood and well implemented.

As all employees use the elevator, at least once a day, important health and safety notices are posted next to the entrance on each floor, thus allowing all employees the opportunity to take note of the messages.

Emergency Preparedness and Response

Independent News has all procedures in place to deal with emergencies that can happen in a general office environment. The site also houses two huge diesel generators from the days printing was done on-site. It, subsequently, also has a diesel tank. The procedures and equipment are checked once a year and all precautions have been put in place to reduce possible risk.

Jaydee Le Roux inspects the fire equipment every month but there is an outsourced company that comes and services the equipment once every year. As there are plenty fire extinguishers, it takes the outsourced company a week to thoroughly service all of them.

Checking & Corrective Action

The MAKROSAFE Consultant does a thorough check up of all aspects that affect health and safety during the monthly visits. It is during the same visits that he evaluates the compliance rate of the premises and suggest improvements and changes, where required.

Health and Safety Compliance; Internal Audit

Joseph also shares that they conduct internal audits to check their premises proactively for any hazards. A maintenance team does the rounds on a daily basis and any identified hazards are brought to the attention of the management and are immediately rectified. Besides their own audit, MAKROSAFE also assist them with audits time and again. They recently assisted them by doing a thorough audit for their canteen which needed to be revamped. The MAKROSAFE area manager conducted the health and safety audit and came up with suggestions for changes in flooring, increasing the amount of fire equipment and suggested the presence of a first aider at the canteen. Other suggestions included the specifics in terms of keeping the place clean and well ventilated.

Management Review in Health and Safety

Joseph highlights that the structure is changing at Independent News as they recently dealt away with the printing department. He suggests changes are necessary and there is still more to improve to ensure the workplace remains compliant and meet the relevance of having offices only. He also cited that with MAKROSAFE on their side, he has no doubt the transition will be smooth and they will continue to not record any incident in many years to come.

Posted date: 24th Jun 2015
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