The annual occupational health and safety exhibition, A-OSH Expo, returned to the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand in May. MARISKA MORRIS attended to catch all the highlights.

A-OSH Expo – the leading occupational health and safety exhibition in Africa – and Securex South Africa, once again joined forces to bring South Africa three days of health, safety and security from leaders in the industry. Combined, the Expos saw a record number of visitors on the first day with 3 700 delegates compared to the 2 600 in 2017.

Sven Smit, portfolio director of both exhibitions at Specialised Exhibitions Montgomery, explained that A-OSH had over 100 exhibitors. He said: “This is a significant leap from previous years and reflects the fact that the topic of occupational health and safety (OHS) is being increasingly recognised across all spheres of employment.

“Our exhibitors spanned areas such as fire and safety, personal protective equipment (PPE), gas detection and signage. The Expo offered insights into alcohol testing, medical kits, safety planning software, training and consulting, as well as certification and auditing.”

The exhibitors pulled out all the stops. The BBF Safety Group, for example, had a flash mob of gumboot dancers performing in the company’s Wayne boots and Bova and Sisi overalls.

Unsurprisingly, the commotion drew crowds to the stand every time. The Bova and Sisi overalls are locally manufactured and tailored specifically for the South African market. The Bova safety-wear range includes overalls, boiler suits, dust coats and high-visibility work shirts, while Sisi Safety Wear caters for the women in the workplace with overalls, Conti suits and maternity wear.

“We were looking for a unique way to create awareness and excitement around the launch of our safety-wear ranges. As a proudly South African manufacturer, what better way to showcase these garments than through a high-energy gumboot performance,” said Vanessa Ronald, senior brand manager at the BBF Safety Group.

The BBF Safety exhibit also focused on its new OHS service offering. BBF Safety recently bought out the Pinnacle Group, and to promote this merger it is offering discounts (until July 31) on safety representative, firefighting and first-aid training. Courses are also available on legal liability, the OHS Act and ISO 45001 awareness, OHS system compliance audit and the complete OHS system.

The organisers of the A-OSH Expo awarded prizes to the best stands at the exhibition. Select PPE won first prize. While the Select PPE team looked smart in company-branded blue shirts for the men and bright pink safety vests for the women, it was the addition to its stand of the second storey, fully equipped with a coffee machine, couches, barstools and tables, that set it apart.

“We are so surprised, but also very proud of our exhibit. We added the second storey to allow us to answer questions from our clients in a quieter environment with fewer distractions,” said Marishka van der Shyff, marketing manager at Select PPE.

“We are planning to visit a few more exhibitions this year and will keep our current stand set-up with minor tweaks. We are excited about the next exhibit.”

Other eye-grabbing stands included HSE Solutions with its interactive screens and clean-lined design, as well as G Fox with its more rustic, industrial approach and bright red branding suspended above the stand.

Various supporting OHS organisations, such as the South African Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Saiosh) and NOSA, were also present.

ALCO-Safe exhibited its wide range of drug-testing and breathalyser equipment. It was the company’s fifth time attending the A-OSH Expo.

“We’ve been to other exhibitions, but A-OSH is completely health and safety orientated, which means we’ve been busy all the time with clients who actually want to buy our products,” noted ALCO-Safe MD, Rhys Evans.

He added that the A-OSH Expo is a wonderful opportunity to also showcase ALCO-Safe products. Breathalysers were some of the most popular products, although Evans stated that drug testing is becoming increasingly important, particularly with the possible legalisation of marijuana in South Africa.

“Our unmanned, turnstile breathalyser is one of our most popular products. The breathalyser is mounted to a turnstile, which prevents a gate from opening unless an employee blows into the breathalyser. Based on the results, the gate will open, or a beacon light and siren above the turnstile will go off and prevent an employee from entering,” Evans explained.

This unmanned breathalyser, dubbed Alcontrol, has been available from ALCO-Safe since October 2017. It is particularly useful to industries, such as manufacturing, that have expensive equipment, a high volume of employees and a single entry point, or manageable entry points.

ALCO-Safe also promoted its saliva-based drug tests. Evans pointed out that many people are uncomfortable with a urine-based test, because of the associated privacy issues, but a saliva test could, in theory, be done anywhere.

“An employer could test an employee in an office. It is easy to use and gives results on site. A urine-based drug test gives an employer a bit of a history on the employee’s drug use, but a saliva test is more about whether the employee is under the influence at that moment,” he added.

A saliva test can screen for drug use for three to 24 hours after drug use depending on the amount and type of drug consumed.

This form of testing is less invasive of the employee’s personal life and will be particularly useful if marijuana is legalised. Evans said: “If marijuana is legalised, it will be like alcohol. Employees will be able to use it, but will not be able to come to work intoxicated.” He added that it is better for employers to be prepared before the legislation is passed.

Finally, Evans advised companies to vet their choice of supplier. While affordable, quality products are important, the supplier should also be able to assist with drawing up a substance-abuse policy.

“The supplier should be able to do this free of charge. Some companies supply affordable drug testing equipment, but then charge a fortune to write a substance-abuse policy,” Evans noted.

He added: “ALCO-Safe has so much experience that we actually have templates to suit specific environments. We encourage a company to give its own input and offer assistance in drawing up the policy, provided our products are used.”

Throughout the Expo, delegates could attend various free seminars managed by the Institute of Safety Management (IOSM) and the South African Protective Equipment Marketing Association (SAPEMA). The sessions were often overflowing with delegates, who happily stood through an entire 45-minute presentation. The topics ranged from new OHS legislation to innovations in PPE.

This year, the A-OSH Expo, in partnership with Securex South Africa, hosted the South African Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind (SAGDA) as its charity partner.

Smit said: “A trained guide dog helps its owner to avoid obstacles, prevent accidents and find destinations. A guide dog becomes a constant companion to a visually impaired person, enhancing their quality of life, providing a measure of independence and mobility as well as offering unconditional love and companionship.”

Mmabatho Koena, marketing coordinator at SAGDA, noted that the Association aims to provide any visually impaired person, regardless of their financial position, with a guide dog. Therefore, these individuals pay only R100 towards the board and lodging for the dog’s two-week stay at SAGDA for training. They can also purchase a dog for as little as five rand.

It costs the Association about R100 000 to train a guide dog. The SAGDA team aimed to raise funds for the Association at the A-OSH Expo by selling raffle tickets and soft-toy puppies. The puppies-in-training were also in attendance at the Expo.

Smit concluded: “The A-OSH and Securex Expos bring real value to professionals who work in these fields. The shows have become valuable additions to their working calendars for the learning and networking opportunities that they bring. We look forward to continuing the growth of Securex South Africa and A-OSH Expo next year.”

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