MHI Regulations Amendment 2017 out in January

Department of Labour Chief Inspector Tibor Szana.
Department of Labour Chief Inspector Tibor Szana.

The Department of Labour will publish the draft Major Hazard Installation or MHI Regulations Amendment 2017 for review in January.

The amendment will tighten compliance at MHI workplaces, and protect the public against major incidents.

A technical committee appointed by the Department of Labour, which includes industry players, is set to finalise the inputs made at an MHI workshop in October, and will thereafter allow for 60 days for public comment.

Department of Labour Chief Inspector Tibor Szana warned that employers must play their part in ensuring health and safety at and near MHIs.

The Department expects the new regulations to be in force by late 2017 or early 2018. Seven years ago, reported on slow progress with the first review of the MHI Regulations.

Self-regulation by employers “did not work”

Szana said self-regulation by employers has not worked. Even with the current regulations having been in force for some years, and already up for review, “people are still in the dark about their application”.

Meanwhile the MHI environment has entered a new era in risk management, said Szana. Experts should train operators.

Each regulation comes with its own set of risks, he said, “and this will manifest in implementation”. People know when things are going wrong, and workers must play their part in preventing incidents.

MHI sites include petrochemicals, chemicals, gas, and a range of other sites.
MHI sites include petrochemicals, chemicals, gas, and a range of other sites.

MHI definition

Major Hazard Installations (MHIs) refers to plant “where any substance is produced, processed, used, handled or stored, in such a form and quantity, that it has the potential to cause a major incident or an occurrence of catastrophic proportions, resulting from the use of plant and machinery, or from activities at a workplace”.

Some major hazard installations are in petrochemical works or facilities and refineries; chemical works and production plants; compressed air manufacturers and users, such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), nitrogen gas, medical oxygen, hydrogen gas; or chemical stores and distribution centres; explosives; flammable liquids; flammable solids; toxic and infectious substances; radioactive substances; corrosive substances.

Mining plant is regulated by the MHS Act, not by the OHS Act and its regulations. South Africa has recently been spared major non-mining incidents with high casualties.

However there have been some incidents involving hazardous substances, as in Welkom where a gas release resulted in an injury; and at a poultry farm in Rustenburg where gases had escaped.

The revised MHI Regulations will include;

  • notification of the Labour Department of certain installations;
  • on-site emergency plans;
  • notification on modification of hazardous installations;
  • risks assessments;
  • responsibilities of local government.

MHI inspectors trained

Preceding the workshop, inspectors were trained by the Labour Department’s MHI sub-directorate for three days.

A total of 25 Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) inspectors from all provinces were trained on MHI regulations requirements.

Topics covered in the training include:

  • Globally Harmonised System (GHS) classification, labelling and packaging of chemicals;
  • full implementation of the GHS by 2020;
  • MHI inspection (administrative), and supporting documents that should be checked by inspectors;
  • Visits to MHI installations.

Among the presenters were consultants in occupational health, environmental management, Approved Inspection Authority (AIAs), local government, and independent auditors.

The Labour Department said it was “improving relations with co-regulators and stakeholders in the MHI environment”, referring to other relevant authorities and service providers.

  • Sources; DOL.
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