If you are a bit nervous about implementing the new regulations -don’t be.
What you need to know about the regulation
The regulation is NOT prescriptive. What does this mean? In a nutshell the regulation does not prescribe certain risk assessments, certain preferred suppliers, certain weight limits, repetition limits etc. So this leaves it all open to interpretation and may be a bit confusing. I have received numerous questions (already) asking what do we do? Which risk assessment do we use? How do we comply? What must be done? Will I spend money on a risk system that does not work or worse not comply?
Let me help you understand the key points. This is by no means an in-depth explanation regarding each point but a quick reference to the main topics. I was one of the three Ergonomists on the Technical Committee that developed the regulations, so I have some tips for you.
The key points are:
1. You need to Implement and Ergonomics Programme as part of your Existing Health and Safety programme.
You are free to choose the ergonomics programme and risk assessment that suits your needs as a company.
You don’t have to now go and change weights of products, for example. The essences is to anticipate the ergonomics risk, quantify the risk and manage the ergonomics risk of your organisation. The goal is to protect the health and safety of any person who may be exposed to ergonomic risk in the workplace. This brings us to the next point…
2. Who is Actually Competent?
Any person who has a degree or post graduate degree in Ergonomics will be deemed competent, as per my understanding of the definition. If you don’t have a degree in ergonomics or a post graduate degree in ergonomics, you are then not competent. That said, you can do my Ergonomics Risk Auditors course and this will give you the necessary competency to complete a basic ergonomics risk assessment. (http://ergomax.co.za/list-of-courses/).
If you want to be recognised as a Professional in the field of Ergonomics then you have to go through the Ergonomics Society of South Africa’s certification process– please follow the link below: (https://www.ergonomicssa.com/index.php?pid=4 ergonomics society of South Africa) The certification board will then assess your application and award you the title of Certified Professional Ergonomist (CPE) OR Certified Ergonomics Associate (CEA) or guide you towards a successful application.
3. The Back Bone of the Regulation is the Risk Assessment.
As a company you are free to choose the type of ergonomics risk assessment. As long as it is relevant to your industry and employee population. There is little point implementing a risk assessment that predicts an answer based on a user population statistics for another country for example. There is also little value in applying a basic checklist as this won’t correctly identify the nature of the risk. This is why I have developed the ergokintics risk assessment that is applicable to South Africa, based on South Africans and South African working conditions. Lastly the risk assessment must be able to quantify the risk and prioritise the risks identified. The whole ergonomics programme will be built around this risk assessment. The risk assessment must be completed at two year intervals or if there is a change in the working conditions that warrants a new risk assessment.
4. You Need to Train your Employees.
There is an onus to educate all employees and mandatories (Contractors or people on site other than employees) with regards to the regulation, what ergonomics risk are, potential health risks and procedures that have been implemented in order to address ergonomic related issues.
We have all the relevant training modules in place in order to assist you in this regard. There are also Duties for the employees to assist the employers in effective implementation, adherence to the regulation requirements.
5. You need to ensure the suppliers and manufactures have considered ergonomics in the design of their product.
This not only pertains to the design of the “product” but also the delivery, transport and maintenance of the product.
The product implemented must ensure that as far as possible the product optimises human well-being and overall system performance. The easiest interpretation is to provide a product that considers the user population, so as not to introduce risk to their health, and does not reduce their ability to work effectively.
6. Implement medical review and keep records.
A medical surveillance programme needs to be in place to ensure that ergonomic related injuries/diseases are monitored and tracked. This programme must be overseen by an occupational medical practitioner. The surveillance is three part, firstly an initial, periodic and exit health examination.
For example, a new employee may present with high blood pressure, this condition may lead to a diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome whilst at work. The diagnosis can then be explored in terms of the work-relatedness of the disease – guided by the ergonomics risk assessment – or is the diagnosis linked to the high blood pressure. Control the high blood pressure and the Carpal Tunnel may resolve itself. It’s not just about engineering and design and employee rotation.
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