The Covid-19 pandemic is presenting various challenges, as well as opportunities, for health and safety professionals, who are used to dealing with risk as a function of the job. The South African Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Saiosh) and its members are playing a crucial role during these unprecedented and challenging times
Covid-19 has fast-tracked the economy ahead of its time – the crisis has accelerated the transition to contactless work and automation. At the outset, Saiosh implemented a Business Continuity plan, with staff continuing to provide its services and support to members, and to do so effectively while looking after the well-being and safety of its staff.
Saiosh CEO, Neels Nortje, must be commended for his swift action to implement the Saiosh Membership Relief Fund. While acknowledging and thanking the thousands of members who have renewed their 2020 membership with Saiosh, we realise that some members are facing financial difficulties during these trying times. Accordingly, Saiosh established the fund to assist those members to renew their 2020 membership.
I have been attending task team meetings almost daily, and, in my opinion, the pandemic has sharply focused attention on the importance of OHS at the workplace, with great emphasis on the need for OHS practitioners.
On the other hand, the economy has been severely affected by mass retrenchments. The coronavirus has dramatically changed the way we live and work, impacting virtually every element of life.
H&S practitioners must remember that the pandemic is a hugely stressful time for everyone. However, workers may be more prone to suffering from mental health issues: some may feel isolated from their team; others may be working longer hours in difficult conditions to meet demand. In addition, some workers will feel vulnerable amid the gloomy economic outlook and will be concerned about losing their jobs.
The rapid advancement of technology and different working conditions will require OHS legislation and Regulations to change at a faster pace.
Remember: capable H&S professionals have knowledge, skills, self-esteem and values that make them confident in their ability as individuals and in association with others in a diverse and changing society to:
• Take effective and appropriate action;
• Explain what they are about;
• Live and work effectively with others; and
• Continue to learn from their experience.
We salute and thank all H&S professionals who have been working throughout the lockdown as Essential Services. The economy has been opening up on a phased basis, with millions of workers returning to their jobs. Together we as H&S professionals can assist in the fight to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic.
Key highlights since the lockdown:
Saiosh received 91 new membership applications in April and it appears that May is going to top that, as we already have 70 new applications this month.
We have been inundated with applications for the Saiosh Membership Relief Fund and to date have approved membership renewals to the value of R40 000.
We have launched our 4th online forum – The Saiosh Covid-19 Workplace Preparedness Forum – which is a hub of activity, so much so that we have increased Adv Looch’s time to reply to the legal matters.
As you have seen, we have provided members with loads of Covid-19 information via our newsletter and Facebook platforms – as well as the Latest News section on our website.
We joined the Independent Professional Body Forum (IPBF) Food Scarcity Project (Food Forward) which, to date, has raised more than R22,5 million (26 470 588 meals).
All our staff are still working from home and are healthy and safe.