OHS legislation has seen some major changes recently and there are more to come….
In March 2021, Cabinet approved the publication of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Bill 2020 for public consultation. The process of amending the Occupational Health and Safety Act itself (Act 85 of 1993) was first initiated in 2016 with the aim of updating legislation to better meet the challenges of modern working environments.
Several new or revised regulations have been promulgated in terms of the Act in the last two years.
The Ergonomics Regulations were promulgated in 2019. These new regulations require employers to comply with several requirements including the provision of information and training to employees regarding ergonomics hazards and the associated risks. Employers are required to conduct risk assessments for all tasks where an employee may be exposed to ergonomic risks. The risk assessment may be performed in-house by an employee, provided they have the necessary skills and competency. It is the duty of the employer to ensure that the individual who performs the risk assessment has an adequate level of competence. Alternatively, the employer may appoint a professional to conduct the ergonomics risk assessment – this is recommended, particularly if the tasks to be assessed are complex in nature. The ergonomics risk assessments must identify the ergonomic hazards to which employees are exposed, identify the employees who may be exposed and what effects such exposure may have on their health, evaluate the risks of exposure and prioritise these risks for appropriate remediation or control.
Employers have until June 2021 to conduct a baseline ergonomics risk assessment for their site(s). These baseline assessments must then be subject to review every 24 months or in the event of any changes being made which could impact on ergonomic risks.
ASBESTOS ABATEMENT REGULATIONS
The Asbestos Abatement Regulations were promulgated in 2020. These regulations repealed the previous Asbestos Regulations (2001) and require of employers to establish inventories of asbestos in place on their sites. These inventories must be compiled by suitably competent persons and must include the date on which the asbestos containing material (ACM) was identified, a description of the ACM, the location of the ACM on a floor plan, confirmation of labelling and signage (as required by Regulation 20) and the risk categorisation which is derived from the risk assessment process. The asbestos in place inventories must be subject to review every 24 months by a competent person and every 6 years by an approved inspection authority.
Asbestos risk assessments must be performed by a suitably competent person and must adequately categorise the risks of exposure to airborne asbestos fibres associated with each identified task. The risks must be derived from the health impacts of the ACM, the number of persons exposed to the ACM, the potential for exposure to ACM (during normal work activities/maintenance/disturbance) and the condition of the ACM. The categorisation of risks must then be used to determine how best to deal with the ACM – i.e. keep in place, repair or remove. Asbestos risk assessments must be reviewed by a competent person every 24 months and subject to review and endorsement by an approved inspection authority every 6 years.
REGULATIONS FOR HAZARDOUS CHEMICAL AGENTS
In late March 2021, the Regulations for Hazardous Chemical Agents (HCA) were finally promulgated, repealing the previous Regulations for Hazardous Chemical Substances, 1995. Whilst the new regulations contain numerous significant changes, they still require that employers conduct risk assessments to determine the risk of employee exposure to HCA. HCA risk assessments must include the identity of the HCA to which employees may be exposed, the effects that the HCA may have on employees, where the HCA is present, the physical form of the HCA, the route of intake into the body and the existing measures in place to control employee exposure to the HCA. Risk assessments must be performed immediately and must be reviewed every 24 months or in the event of any changes being made which could impact on employee exposure to HCA. If the assessment indicates that any employee is at risk of exposure to an HCA via the inhalation route, appropriate personal air monitoring must be performed to quantify these exposure risks. Personal air monitoring must be performed by an approved inspection authority.
Geozone Environmental is a Department of Employment and Labour approved inspection authority (AIA) and is SANAS accredited to perform all of the quantitative occupational hygiene surveys as required by the Asbestos Abatement Regulations and the Regulations for Hazardous Chemical Agents.
Our Occupational Hygienists (registered with the Southern African Institute for Occupational Hygiene) are eminently qualified to provide clients with professional risk assessments for ergonomic stressors, asbestos and hazardous chemical agents in full compliance with the requirements of current legislation.