DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR ~ GOVERNMENT GAZETTE, 6 DECEMBER 2019
The Minister of Employment and Labour has, under section 43 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1993 (Act No. 85 of 1993), after consultation with the Advisory Council for Occupational Health and Safety, made the regulations in the Schedule.
Explanatory Notes to Ergonomics Regulations 2019 by the Chief Directorate: Occupational Health and Safety
The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to all employers, employees and the public alike, who are responsible for or concerned with the control and prevention of exposure to ergonomic risks in the workplace. This guide does not replace the Ergonomics Regulations of 2019. It is intended to give practical insight into the application of the Regulations. It should always be read in conjunction with the Ergonomics Regulations and the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1993.
Ergonomics (human factors will be considered the same as ergonomics in this document) takes a systems approach to understanding work acknowledging the interactions between the various elements within the work-system including tools/technology, tasks, environment, organisation and persons in the workplace. Ergonomics aims to balance these interactions through the design of the system using a human-centred approach. Applied comprehensively in a workplace, ergonomics can be as important a concept as strategic planning and quality control. It has a real and direct impact on health and safety, productivity and performance.
Ergonomics can affect an entire work-system by enhancing the most important component – the ability to balance task demands with employee capabilities. The practical benefits of ergonomics are, but not limited to: § Labour – improved health, well-being and safety of employees § Business – improved productivity, efficiency and prevention of occupational incidents and adverse health effects § Government – a workplace that is safe and without risk to the health of employees.
The regulations speak to an ergonomics programme approach which should be integrated into existing occupational health and safety programmes. An ergonomics programme is a systematic process for anticipating, identifying, analysing and controlling ergonomic risks, which should include but not be limited to, ergonomics hazards identification and risk assessment, risk controls, information and training, monitoring and evaluation and medical surveillance.
It is important to acknowledge that ergonomics is not a stand alone hazard, but rather part of the broader approach to ensuring a workplace that is safe and without risk to the health of employees as well as productivity at work.
Regulation 6: Ergonomic risk assessment
(a) An employer must, before the commencement of any work that may expose employees to ergonomic risks, have an ergonomic risk assessment performed by a competent person.
(b) The ergonomic risk assessment contemplated in paragraph (a) must be performed after consultation with the health and safety committee established in respect of a workplace under the employer’s control or the health and safety representatives designated for that workplace or for different sections thereof.
The ergonomic risk assessment contemplated in subregulation (1) must–
(a) be conducted at intervals not exceeding two years; and
(b) include– (i) a complete hazard identification;
(ii) the identification of all persons who may be affected by the ergonomic risks;
(iii) how employees may be affected by the ergonomic risks;
(iv) the analysis and evaluation of the ergonomic risks; and
(v) the prioritisation of ergonomic risks.
An employer must review the relevant ergonomic risk assessment made in accordance with subregulation (1) if–
(a) such assessment is no longer valid;
(b) control measures are no longer effective;
(c) technological or scientific advances allow for more effective control methods;
(d) there has been a change in–
(i) the work methods;
(ii) the type of work carried out; or
(iii) the type of equipment used to control the exposure; and
(e) an incident occurs or medical surveillance reveals an adverse health effect, where ergonomic risks are identified as a contributing factor.
Regulation 7: Risk control
- An employer or self-employed person must ensure that the exposure of a person to ergonomic risks is prevented or, where this is not reasonably practicable, adequately controlled.
- In order to comply with subregulation (1) an employer or self-employed person must, as far as is reasonably practicable, remove or reduce exposure to ergonomic risks by implementing control measures in accordance with the hierarchy of controls.
Regulation 6: Explanation of Ergonomics Risk Assessment
It is the duty of the employer to conduct a risk assessment for all tasks where an employee is exposed to ergonomic risks. The risk assessment may be carried out by an employee who is familiar with the task, provided they have the competency to do so. Before an employee conducts the risk assessment, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that the individual has the adequate level of competence to conduct the risk assessment.
The employer may require a health and safety professional who has to demonstrate appropriate competence to conduct the risk assessment when the task being carried out is complex. While one individual may be able to carry out a risk assessment, it may be beneficial to draw on the knowledge and competencies of others.
The risk assessment should include at least the following steps:
- Identifying the hazards employees are exposed to
- Identifying the employees who are exposed to the risks and how they may be affected
- Analysing and evaluating the risk
- Prioritising the risks
- The risk assessment should be conducted and or reviewed at least every two years and recorded.
- Shorter review periods may be necessary if new information becomes available or there has been a change in task or control measures.
- The risk assessment should also be reviewed if a reportable incident occurs or if an employee suffers an adverse health effect as a result of exposure to ergonomic risks.
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