Ergonomics is something that is more important in the workplace than most people realise. It is the study of how humans interact with man-made objects, and this can affect an employee’s chances of injury and harm. The Department of Labour has now launched new ergonomic regulations to prevent occupational harm in South Africa.
South Africa’s new regulations will require employers to introduce a system to monitor the vulnerability to ergonomic risks of workers.
Description of ergonomic hazards by the department is as follows: “a trait or behavior in the workplace, circumstances in the workplace, or a combination thereof that may impede overall system efficiency and human welfare.”
Any ergonomic hazards found by health compliance experts in the workplace include:
– heavy lifting;
– repeatable, strenuous or uncomfortable movement;
– improperly positioned workstations and chairs;
– driving without break for long periods.
“The regulations also place duties on designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers. This aims to eliminate, or reduce, ergonomic hazards in the early stages of designing systems and equipment, rather than trying to find a solution once there is a final product,” Minister of Labour Thulas Nxesi said to BusinessTech.
“They entail details regarding the instruction and training; the duties of persons who may be at risk of exposure to ergonomic risks; duties of designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers; ergonomic risk assessment; risk control; maintenance of controls; medical surveillance; the keeping of records; offences and penalties for failure to comply,” the Department said.
“With the development and promulgation of the new Regulations, South Africa has become one of the leading countries to regulate ergonomics and reduce ergonomic hazards in the workplace,” he said. “We can be proud of this. These regulations are in everyone’s interests – improving working conditions as well as performance.”