Trends in African Sheq professions in 2016

Cygma Group MD, Rudy Maritz.
Cygma Group MD, Rudy Maritz.

Sheq consultant Rudy Maritz unpacks some threats and opportunities for Sheq professions in Africa in 2016.

The key challenges in the Sheq professions in Africa remains the slow development of its relevant sciences, technologies, and practices. The economy adds some more threats in 2016 (see a forecast for some industries below).

Occupational Safety, Health, Environment, and Quality (Sheq), including auditing, training, and clients, have a high resistance to change. We are likely to see Generation Y, also named Millennials, moving out of the Sheq arena into professions that offer more challenge, more change, and more rewards.

Occupational safety in particular, has been the slowest of the disciplines to improve its research and standards of learning. Even newly created courses and designations cling to concepts formulated by the likes of Heinrich in 1931, and found to be unscientific (see several posts and comments on this topic on Sheqafrica.com).

Even British Safety Services, one of the UK’s largest training providers, updated the Heinrich theory of accident causation in 2010, and isolated six stages of accident causation instead of the traditional five, placing ‘External Factors’ at very start of the process. Instead of proving or rejecting the theory, the BBS decided to “expand” on it.

Sheq Practitioners should challenge these baseless and ‘common sense’ theories through proper research and workplace think-tanks, to find scientific models, and streamline the practice, instead of clogging it up with processes that accept accident causes such as “undetermined” and “human error”.

Another Sheq challenge is resistance to digital applications. Some employers and practitioners misunderstand the legal term “in writing” as “on paper”.

Approaching 2016 with the same mindset, doing the same things, will achieve the same results. It is time for change!

Economy could stall Sheq improvement

Economists say 2016 would be tough as the rand currency remains volatile, and foreign investments may further decline.

According to Lyndy van den Barselaar, MD of Manpower SA, employers anticipate an increase in staffing levels for eight of the ten industry sectors during 2016. The strongest hiring plans of about 10% are in the public and social, transport, storage (logistics), and communication sectors.

Hiring intentions are also reported in agriculture, hunting, forestry, fishing, manufacturing, and hospitality (restaurants and hotels).

Payrolls are forecast to decline in construction at -8%, and in mining and quarrying at -6%. Some industries may take Sheq professions into a new direction.

Oil and Gas Sheq in decline

With the oil price predicted by the World Bank to reach its lowest level by the end of this year, and not seen to reach its 2013 prices within the next ten years, Sheq in the Oil and Gas industry is probably going to pay the highest price.

As more Middle Eastern companies cut down on capital expansion projects, many expat Sheq practitioners are likely to return to SA, bringing back some desperately needed skills to the professional pool.

While this may be on a positive note, new entrants and less experienced practitioners may find it difficult to find work as the market is gradually filled by the more experienced people returning.

Construction Sheq

Lack of government spending on infrastructure, scaling back of mining projects amid low commodity prices, and weak business confidence, have squeezed profits in the construction sector, with Aveng warning its shareholders of a possible swing to loss in 2016.

Group Five is reaping the benefit of the weak rand with its Intertoll business contributing greatly to the operating profits.

The construction industry is set on a path of flat revenue. This could impact on the number of new projects for 2016 and it is unlikely that the industry will be a cash cow for construction health and safety practitioners in the year ahead. Sheq practitioners in South Africa are already in over-supply.

The rest of Africa is the centre of attention for retail and construction, perhaps with shopping mall projects.

Retail, logistics and warehousing Sheq

The outlook for 2016 in South Africa is negative in the retail market as consumer spending will feel the crunch of the rand’s poor reputation as currency, but the grass appears to be greener outside the country with retailers tapping into the last frontier; Africa.

Shoprite is ahead of the pack with R1.5bn into Angola and Nigeria for opening 30 new supermarkets, followed by Massmart, who set African expansion as one of its four strategic priorities, planning to increase its non-SA trade footprint by 45% in the cash-and-carry and Builder’s Warehouse operations.

Botswana-based retailer Choppies recently acquired 10 stores in Kenya, with Zambia, South Africa and Tanzania in its sights for 2016.

These retail plans will create Sheq opportunities in Africa in the next 5 years, as food health and safety, hygiene, transportation safety, and warehouse safety will become part of their value chain.

Maritime Sheq

The current drought in South Africa is the worst in decades and a threat to the country’s food security. Two dams have already run dry and livestock are under severe pressure.

The nett effect is the import of additional food supplies and ports in South Africa would see an increase in activities.

The stevedoring industry is greatly to benefit from the increase in import activities, but with the weak rand, it would probably off-set the drop in export activities.

Governed by the Maritime Occupational Safety Regulations under the Merchant Shipping Act of 1957, the maritime industry, although small in comparison, such as fishing, stevedoring, and warehousing, offers excellent opportunities for Sheq practioners in 2016.

Telecommunications Sheq

The “last mile” or fibre to the home (FTTH) optic roll-outs will increase, offering Sheq opportunities.

One of the biggest players in the market, UK-based Vodafone, has taken the lead with Sheq drives and initiatives (see another report on Vodacom Sheq on Sheqafrica.com).

Dark Fibre Africa, DFA, has about 8000km of fibre optic network already installed. According to Joey Gabriel, COO, “Companies are realising the benefits that high speed fibre can bring to their business, and the uptake of Fibre to the Business (FTTB) across the country has been phenomenal”.

Although the telecoms industry is bogged down by lack of bandwidth, and the SABC drags its feet to migrate its analogue broadcast to digital and free up the spectrum, the industry will continue growth over the next two to five years.

The telecoms industry offers opportunities for Sheq practitioners specialising in fall protection and work at height, as well as contractor management and auditing.

• Rudy Maritz, Managing Director of the Cygma Group, has 30 years or experience in the Sheq profession, with the last 15 years as co-owner and consultant.

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9 thoughts on “Trends in African Sheq professions in 2016

  1. Quite a thought provoking article, especially with South African academic institutions that seem to be struggling to even keep up with the the country’s SHEQ industry slow growth rate.

  2. Thank you for the wonderful article, there is definitely a challenge in our profession that needs us to study further than the popular short courses. Last year I was graduating for a National Diploma in Safety Management. The issue of lack of people who have interest in pausing their studies beyond Btech level was mentioned. it is worrying that we do not want to study and master the subject matter so that we can be able to change the landscape or the common belief. I am impressed by your article and I hope it will resuscitate a lot of potential PHD academics to go back to school and became what God created them to be.

    1. Congratulations, I am still struggling to pass National High Certificate in Economics they offered me before I can register for my Diploma they said I don’t qualify since I did not do Maths. I am thinking of going for Vaal University maybe the requirements are best suit for non maths cronies

  3. It’s very scary but true Sherq needs some revitalization
    We can’t be doing one and the same thing but expecting different results

  4. Based on education being restricted on safety management in south africa I would just like some advice on the next step when it comes to education. I sm finishing my BTECH Safety Management in june 2016, so what would you suggest gor further studies? I sm looking at industrial psychology or LLB?

  5. You forgot a category:

    Poephol SHEQ

    That are a sheq who doesn’t know their ar$e from their elbow but can work in any sector for any business. They just use a checklist and take a tick box approach to everything – a “catch all” solution.

  6. Hi All, writing from West Africa. I enjoyed this article the second time i read it. Africa is a great place to be, and yes improvement in the HSE fields is a must.
    The HSE talent pool in Africa I have found to be very small, and many do not have the passion. I have also seen some business operators in some countries taking advantage of this, and not even providing the basics of HSE.

    Liberia, where I am now, is still recovering from a 14-year war. The main revenue is rubber (second largest supplier in the world). Industry is sparse, as most items are imported, and there are very few major projects, such as hydro-electrical.

    Africa has a long way to go. RSA still is the most industrialised in Africa.

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