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A number of aspects are cause for concern regarding productivity within the South African construction sector. Socially, the lack of attention to social aspects such as morale and fatigue have the potential to result in high levels of absenteeism. Absenteeism has a negative economic impact, with project profitability reduced without adequate control measures. Productivity is an important factor for the overall performance of any size construction company.

Absenteeism costs economies billions in terms of lost revenue, production, and the additional costs to individuals. Mental and emotional issues account for 70% of the reasons for being absent from work, and the cost to the economy in excess of R2billion. Absenteeism is largely poorly understood, specifically in the construction industry. There is a paucity of information regarding the current rates of absenteeism, however approximately 4.5% of South African workers could be absent on any given day, which could exceed 25%.  

However, now there is COVID-19. The 2 months of stages 5 and 4 lockdown have had a massive impact on the sector. Not related to absenteeism directly, but the economy as a whole. The introduction of level 3 from 1 June 2020 and all construction industries resuming work has changed the working front significantly. The approach to dealing with exposure or being infected with COVID-19 has changed the approach to absenteeism. 

A range of legislation has been fundamental to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hazardous Biological Agents Regulations (HBARs), the National Disaster Management Act (NDMA), as well as the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) are core to addressing work issues. The Labour Relations Act (LRA) and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) are also required to be observed when considering the effects of COVID-19 and how it is managed from an absenteeism point of view. 

Workers who are highly vulnerable are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 when exposed in the workplace. It is incumbent upon the employer to identify those workers who are at risk, and to allow them to work from home as far as possible. Workers who start to show symptoms or who have been exposed to someone who they discover is positive need to notify their employer. It is recommended that if workers know they have co-morbidities, such as hypertension, diabetes, HIV and AIDS, TB or any other chronic disease they should notify their employer and be sent for screening before being allowed to attend work. Not all contractors have access to occupational health facilities, so employers could accept a certificate from any of the chain stores who have clinics, a general practitioner or physician, or even the local clinic. Dealing with sensitive information in this manner would ensure the integrity of medical information. 

Employers do need to ensure that workers are not abusing their sick leave. A worker who claims to be ill as a result of communal exposure would be required to submit a sick certificate and notify the employer through normal channels. Full remuneration is applicable, obviously determined by the individuals sick leave benefits at the time.  Employees may not be discriminated against if a positive diagnosis is made. 

Should a worker contract COVID-19 in the workplace, the case needs to be reported as a compensation case and although this would not be seen as an absenteeism case in the normal sense, it is still occupational sick leave, and has other consequences. In this case the loading of premiums could be a reality to the employer if there is arbitrary application of the requirements to manage exposure. Each case that is identified as positive must be investigated as if it is an accident and attempt to identify possible new risk factors, or failures in the mitigation measures. Daily screening of workers arriving at work is required and anyone with a temperature of above 38.5 degrees celcius or other symptoms are not be allowed on site. 

How the COVID-19 pandemic will be perceived to affect absenteeism remains to be seen, and it already appears that given the stigma attached to contracting the disease has a negative effect. Issues of presenteeism or going to work even if you are not well is a reality with the reduced incomes of most South Africans. Adequate training is required to reduce this very real risk.

If you need assistance with COVID-19 compliance in your organisation please contact us on 08365853090 or [email protected]  

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What are the benefits of ergonomics interventions at work?

The draft Ergonomics Regulations were sent out for comment in 2017. The relevance of addressing ergonomics in all environments is to limit the exposure of workers to musculoskeletal disorders that result in increased absenteeism and decreased productivity. Simple, inexpensive ergonomic interventions and measures can be taken that could have significant returns on investment. We offer a variety of services relating to ergonomics, from training to ergonomic risk assessments, to high level ergonomic investigations. Please contact us for further information and your free quotation.

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Employers have an obligation to protect employees at work. Children (between 15 and 18) who look for work need to be protected from risks and hazards as their bodies are still developing, and they do not have the skills to always assess risk.

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Workers do not deserve to die from exposure to dusts and other respiratory hazards, for a long, productive working life.   


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What should you expect from your Professional Construction Health and Safety Agent (PrCHSA)?

The need to have a health and safety professional on a construction is often misunderstood. There are a number of critical reasons to ensure a professional, competent person is addressing project risk. The PrCHSA advises, leads and manages H&S risk across the project life cycle.

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Many believe that as a small business, the laws and practices relating to health and safety do not apply to them. This is not so. Read some simple ways of dealing with managing health and safety for your small business.

Health Health and Safety (H&S) is most often thought of as being for large, organized business.  So many ‘one man band’ or family businesses, or those that fall into the micro or small business sector are at risk when it comes to H&S. 

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A worker dies every 15 seconds, resulting in about 6300 fatalities per day from accidents and occupational diseases.  A total of 313 million injures are experienced by workers annually, or 860000 injuries daily.  What can we do as South Africans to reduce the risk in the construction sector?

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Preventing Asbestos Legacy Exposures in South Africa

Asbestos remains an issue world wide.  In countries such as South Africa and Australia,the issue now, following many years of no mining or production, is the legacy of exposure.  The paper was written for the ADAO 2017 conference in Washington, USA.

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Retention of Health and Safety Documents

All companies have documents no matter the size of the company. These documents can be divided into a hierarchy and different laws and regulations apply to the retention and / or review of these documents.

General examples of documents would be policies, objectives, manuals, legal documents, and records.

Usually only documents that are regarded as records, need to be retained, as such a document is a seen as proof of an action.

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High Visibility Clothing: Safety From Start to Finish

Traditionally, personal protective equipment (PPE) is issued without much thought or consideration for the safety and health of the wearer.

PPE is not supposed to be provided unless consideration has been given to the type of work, and that the environment in which work is to be done has been assessed and risks reduced.

In the construction sector the requirement to assess the need and effectiveness of PPE is no less than any other industry.

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