Namibia, having joined the rest of the world to recognise our workers on May Day, was a reminder that as we celebrate the immense contribution of our workers, may we keep safety, health, environment and quality on our ladder when disasters occur.
This is to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations, environmental regulations and quality control in place.
Covid-19 brought safety in the workplace to a whole new level, and frontline workers’ efforts were duly recognised.
A recent incident resulting in fatality comes to mind.
The organisation that recorded the fatality was due to an injury on duty, while physically moving an obstructing heavy industrial machine to get access to the area they needed to work on.
This was the result of physically moving a heavy machine that has been out of service for a while.
The work could not come to a standstill, so an alternative measure of using manpower was explored.
There is a provision for a safety officer in the organisation structure; however, it is not filled.
As a result, when the injury happened on duty, resulting in a medical emergency, there was a haphazard approach to how to treat the accident.
Eventually, the employee was put on the back of a pick-up in the PPE gear en route to the hospital before being transferred with an ambulance to a major city for treatment.
The case reporting period was also of concern, and there is no basic training for employees on how to report and manage SHEQ-related incidents at work.
This is an indication that safety was not on the ladder for this organisation, and the ideal setting is the induction stage during new employees’ onboarding.
Though even with careful planning accidents can occur.
Injury on duty can also be avoided, as it can be costly.
The employer suffers on productivity during the employee’s recovery period – apart from relegating gender equity during the recovery period given, the fact that a female in that particular industry is rare.
This calls for evaluation of the safety culture and how to maintain safety, health, environmental and quality compliance in the workplace.
Albert Einstein once said, “Concern for man, himself, and his safety must always be for the chief interest of all technical endeavour. Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations”.
Similarly, the SHEQX management solution proposed four steps in which a company can strengthen their safety:
First and foremost, ensuring employees go through basic training on SHEQ policies and procedures and build it into induction, encompassing but not limited to basic safety principles and first aid in case of medical emergencies.
Secondly, personal protective equipment should also be integral to SHEQ compliance to ensure safe working conditions and usage.
Thirdly, the work environment must be prepared to minimise safety risks as the workplace can pose serious health and safety hazards, including the risk of slips, spills and falls amongst others.
Thus, machinery, equipment and tools should be in top shape to prevent malfunctions.
Lastly, displaying emergency plans and evacuation points around the workplace was also recommended by placing visible warnings in areas prone to risk for example around electrical machinery.
All in all, for the organisation on the path to compliance; there are also ISO standards that may be worth considering; for continuous improvement of Occupational Health and Safety (ISO 45001), Environmental (ISO 14001) and Quality (ISO 9001).
Whether in sourcing the SHEQ functions or insourcing; it is worth investing in a dedicated resource – be it a SHEQ manager or officer who is in charge to ensure the company meets the highest quality standards and that the working conditions are favourable.