The department of labour has introduced a set of draft regulations that aims to protect employees from “ergonomic strain” which may cause or aggravate a musculoskeletal-disorder.
The regulations which were officially gazetted for public comment on Friday, 27 January, will require South African employers to consider any “ergonomic strain” placed on their employees – failing which could see them face up to 12 months in jail and/or a hefty fine.
Ergonomic strain refers to any set of prolonged conditions that could lead to pain or even disability, including awkward or sustained postures; forceful exertion or strain; contact pressure; or exposure to vibration or heat or cold.
While the new rules seem specifically geared to labourers and machine-operators, they instruct all physical and cognitive ergonomic risk factors in the workplace to be take into account.
Employers whose workplaces feature ergonomic risk factors will now be required by law to formulate a training programme for employees. This will require instruction by someone who is proficient in “ergonomic risk factors” and annual refresher courses.
The program must include:
- A consideration for these new regulations;
- The potential ergonomic risks of the of the workplace;
- The level of risk;
- What to do if experiencing suspected ergonomic pains;
- Precautions to take to avoid ergonomic strain.
All employers are now also required to have their employees undertake a mandatory ergonomic risk assessment for any current underlying issues.
This includes preventing the risks as much as possible as well as making sure the employee undergoes medical surveillance if required. Any of these issues as well as any further reported strains are to be recorded and kept on file.
Likewise there is a duty on any employees who are suffering from ergonomic strain to use the correct procedures in reporting the strain and obey the lawful instruction handed down by their employers with regards to the reporting and treatment ergonomic strain.