Prepare Now for Heightened Health & Safety scrutiny

Do you value your organization’s Reputation?

If you do I would suggest that you step up your efforts to comply with Health & Safety standards ASAP.

My reasoning for this warning is simple. There is going to be a fall-out after the South African President Thabo Mbeki ordered a safety audit of all the country’s mines after Harmony Gold rescued 3 200 trapped miners when a broken pipe caused a power outage last week. The president has asked the minister of mineral affairs to conduct an audit of all mines to determine whether they met the health and safety standards prescribed in law, according to a statement on the presidency’s website on Friday.

Although there is a lack of skills to do these audits, I can assure you that the Department of Labour is going to be far more vigilant than in the past and not just with mining companies.

Issues such as this has the tendency to escelate and affect adjecent industries. The media and other stakeholders are also going to raise their levels of awareness and scrutiny. My advice is to get your house in order.

Do you know whether you are compliant with the Act? To what extent are you compliant? Can your service provider give you a rating of your level of compliance? I know of a service provider who can.Contact me if you are interested.

Your choice. Here is a copy of an article that I recently wrote. It is called "Are your Company at risk in destroying its Reputation through Poor Health & Safety Practices"? and it is repeated here for your ease.

Employees are the most valuable asset in any organisation.  So says every annual report. Yet statistics and news analysis still show that organisations maim staff, poison them or destroy the environment.

The health of individuals not only affects the quality of work, but also the lives, and standard of living of the family and community.  It is recognised by all industrialised nations that there is a need to safeguard the health and safety of the individual in the workplace. However many companies are placing themselves at risk in not paying enough attention to safe and healthy practices! In fact many companies have still not complied with the Occupational Health & Safety Act.

What most companies do not realise is that Occupational Health and Safety is not just about legal compliance or reducing workmen’s compensation claims, it is about protecting the company’s reputation. Accidents and other health & safety transgressions do not just have legal, moral and community impact but it also has the ability to destroy an organisation’s hard-earned reputation. Media headlines such as the following do no company any favour:

– "I saw them fall like leaves (Six people fall to their death 30 m after scaffolding gave way)

– Profits come before safety, says experts (After eleven people burn to death locked in a factory)

– After the blast: More questions than answers remain in the wake of a deadly fireworks explosion

With the attention today fully rooted on what companies are doing in terms of sustainable development no organisation can afford to be criticised with regards to their Safety, Health and environmental responsibilities. Many companies do not want to do business anymore with companies that soil the environment or kill or maim their employees. A Recent MORI study in the UK showed that compliance to OHS features as high as Number 1 on company lists when they negotiate new service level agreements. Employees in turn prefer not to work for organisations with poor Safety, Health and environmental records.

In many countries there are various types of legislation to govern this such as the Occupational Health & Safety Act.

To minimise reputational risk we need to:

  1. Act pro-actively and avoid incidents in the workplace. (Reputation managers must therefore work closely with SHE – safety, health and environmental managers to ensure appropriate practices and responses)

  2. Legally comply with the various types of legislation.

  3. Show our customers, internal and external and other relevant stakeholders that we are health & safety conscious. (Words and Actions)

  4. Entrench Occupational Health & Safety as part of organisational thinking and culture. This we can take further through complying with various schemes such as the ISO ratings, etc.

However it is not that simple. Is it just about complying with the law or is it about going beyond the obvious to show that your organisation really care?

I would think that a starting point is complying with the law. Beyond that cut off point is where you start to build trust in your organisation through innovative health and safety projects. It is when your company starts education programs dealing with AIDS or hand out drugs without it being forced by law or by activists. It is when your company starts to act responsible.

Implementing innovative health and safety practices in an organisation is a tool that will add to a company’s reputation. It is a tool that says: "WE CARE". For many employees, existing as well as prospective it says clearly that this is an employer with potential.

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