The pitfalls of Self-help OHS packages

In South Africa there are countless “solutions” for businesses to manage OHS on a DIY basis. While some are great, most are nothing but an expensive collection of editable samples. Price tags from R500 to R25 000 are nothing new. But which one is the best? How do you decide what “system” works for you?

The truth is that none of them actually work for you. It just provides you with a stack of documents which you have to work for.

“The law says that every business must have a policy for managing health and safety.”

The above statement is often used to coerce you to buy a product. And the worst part is that it’s a blatant lie.

Section 7 of the OHS Act, 1993 refers to a Health & Safety Policy, but it reads quite differently from what most OHS “experts” will lead you to believe.

Here is the truth:

7.            Health and safety policy

(1)       The chief inspector may direct

(a)       any employer in writing; and

(b)       any category of employers by notice in the Gazette,

to prepare a written policy concerning the protection of the health and safety of his employees at work, including a description of his organisation and the arrangements for carrying out and reviewing that policy.

(2)       Any direction under subsection (1) shall be accompanied by guide-lines concerning the contents of the policy concerned.

(3)       An employer shall prominently display a copy of the policy referred to in subsection (1), signed by the chief executive officer, in the workplace where his employees normally report for service.

Now if you read this…where do you see that you are required to have such a document?

Now the question arises….

What else is a blatant lie? And how much are you going to pay for that lie? Is this not fraud?

Fraud? No, it’s the one-eye, leading the blind.

But….

The chief inspector did issue a notice to a certain industry sector to develop a policy, and if you fall in that industry, you are legally required to have it. Which industry is that?

Class XXI – Medical Services & Animal Hospitals etc. Published on 24 April 2015 in Government Gazette 38707 notice number 335.

This requires all employers in the Class XXI: Medical services, Animal hospitals etc. category, as per the classification of industries under the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, to prepare a written policy concerning the protection of the health and safety of employees at work, including a description of the organization and the arrangements for carrying out and reviewing that policy within two years from the date of the notice.
This note was originally published under GN 335 of 24 April 2015, but was replaced by GN 588 of 10 July 2015, and again by GN 717 in GG 39099 of 14 August 2015.

Various directives were also issued in terms of Section 7 related to COVID 19. (None of which were considered by the “experts” to be a Safety Policy).

Bullshit baffles brains

When you invest in a OHS “solution” make sure it is designed for your business, and not just a copy & paste exercise performed by a industry expert and sold as proprietary knowledge. There are a few products available that offers full support whenever legislation, regulations, bylaws and other directives changes, but for the most, its a ream of useless paper which will only add to the misery of OHS documentation management.

In 99% of the cases, you don’t 458 templates, 68 risk assessments, 93 toolbox talks, and 100’s of letters of appointment. This is just fat added to bulk up the meat to make the product “look and feel” expensive.

In fact, nowhere in the Act or regulations does the word “toolbox talk” ever appear. It’s a “Safety invention”

Section 13 requires you to inform an employee of the hazards associated with the job, and Section 8 tells us that information and training must be provided to employees. Nowhere does it say it has to happen every week or month. But if the level of training is a fly-over, it’s best to repeat it frequently.

The Fly-over Fly-by-Night.

The Fly-by-night has been in business since the MOSAct started in 1983, and many OHS “experts” have wished them away. Even the professionalisation of the OHS profession wished to change that, but nope. Batman and Robin still sell Safety Files to taxi operators, Dog trainers, and even banks; a document that is only required for construction sites.

But just as you think the fly-by-night is your con-artist, a new breed emerges. Unlike Batman with at least a TV series behind his name, the latest is the One Episode Season of Batman 2.

We can probably call them the Enola Gay of OHS. The worse of the worst. And then also not the cheapest.

Think…think…think

Engaging a OHS Solutions provider requires some careful thinking.

Would you employ a full time employee without an interview? Why do you then do it with a OHS consultant or solutions provider?

Here is a list of questions you need to ask before you invest in a “DIY OHS package” for your business.

  • What do I need to comply with the OHS Act?
  • Which regulations, bylaws and other directives are applicable to my business?
  • What do I need in terms of skills?
  • Can I use my existing management team?
  • How much will it cost my business to maintain an OHS management system?
  • Shall I go for a paper based or online solution?
  • What type of support would I get?
  • What is the format of the documents? Do I have the software to run an online solution?
  • What is the experience of the seller in terms of OHS?
  • How secure is my information?
  • What training do I need to use the solution?
  • Do the seller come to my business do see what I need and help me?
  • What else do I pay for, besides the product purchase? What’s the catch?

Sheqafrica.com will be asking these questions to a few solution providers over the next few weeks and report on their responses.

 

 

 

 

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