The Department of Labour is drafting Ergonomics Regulations, due in 2017. Employers would also have to follow guidelines relevant to their industries.
DOL senior specialist in health and hygiene, Milly Ruiters, said the first Ergonomics Regulations, under the OHS Act, would require a systems approach, and team approach, to managing physical and cognitive ergonomics risks, to prevent errors and incidents.
Rhodes University is currently training the second intake of 15 ergonomic specialists, in a course of six modules, for about ten months, at NQF level 7.
The course is open to the public, aimed at occupational health and hygiene practitioners, and leads to registration with the Certified Ergonomics Society.
The number of work-related musculo-skeletal disorders (WRMSD) reported to the Compensation Commissioner, had recently increased, Ruiters told the Women in Rail and Safety conference in Boksburg in October.
The legislative process was delayed by opposition from business against the inclusion of mental ergonomic factors; and to prevent employers from potentially being exploited by ergonomics consultants.
Physical ergonomics risks may include postures, plant interface, noise, illumination, and repetitive strain. Cognitive or mental ergonomics risks may include repetitive mental strain, workload, fatigue due to shift work, psychological pressure, and distractions.
The DOL is revising the Technical Committee that drafted the Ergonomics Regulations since 2012, due to changes among the Business Unity SA (Busa) nominees. There are also some DOL specialists, and invited specialists on the committee, including Prof Kat Badenhorst, James Flynt of Safsec, a Rhodes lecturer, and two other specialists.
Ergonomics Regulations legislation procedure up to 2018
The Ergonomics Regulations is currently at the state legal services, and would then go to the minister of Labour; announced at a workshop in November 2016; public comment for three months, probably in November, December and January 2017; comments to be incorporated by the Technical Committee during 2017; submission to the minister’s Advisory Council for Occupational Health and Safety (ACOHS) in 2017; promulgation in 2018; with an implementation period.
Occupational ergonomics risks already recognized in law
Current laws that already provide for management of ergonomic risks include:
- OHS Act section 8; Employers have to assess and manage risks
- OHS Act section 10; Exposure to hazardous substances and articles must be managed
- OHS Act section 14; Employees have to co-operate and prevent exposure
- OHS Act section 16; The CEO has to ensure risk management
- Facilities Regulations 8; Ergonomics is noted
- Construction Regulations Amendment 2014 section 9(2); Ergonomics hazards must be analysed, evaluated, and addressed
- COID Circular 180; Occupational Health practitioners must manage upper limb disorders.
Employers have to inform and educate workers on their exposures, including ergonomics risks; and apply medical management, and medical surveillance where applicable.
The DOL had drafted and ergonomics risk factors table. However industry-specific ergonomics factors would be covered in the guidelines to accompany the regulations.
The railway sector had developed a human factors management standard, guided by the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR), which may be incorporated into the expected Ergonomics Regulations guidelines.
Rail operators follow a memorandum with the DOL, including management of substance abuse, violence, and other OHS factors.
Other sectors, such as transport and logistics, chemicals, health services, retail, and agriculture, may each have to follow relevant guidelines, but still within a process and team approach, meaning that every employer would have to develop ergonomics management measures for sites and jobs, and incorporate these into the general management system.
The OHS Act and its regulations apply to all industries, except mining.
Sources; DOL. Women in Rail and Safety conference.