Failure to adhere to best practice in occupational health and safety can have adverse financial implications for companies. Not only that, but failure to comply can leave employees seriously injured or unable to return home to their families.

Anton Zwanepoel, business unit manager at Innovative PPE Solutions, says: “We have in recent times, seen lawsuits approaching R100 million lodged on behalf of workers who were not properly protected from the hazards inherent in their workplace.

“Work stoppages and labour disputes arising from safety issues result in hugely inflated production costs and, most importantly, too many lives are lost or wrecked in accidents that never should have happened, because companies compromised on their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) expenditure,” asserts Zwanepoel.

He says organisations should spend between five and ten percent of their operating costs on initial PPE purchases, which include the likes of comprehensive safety gear for employees, ventilation in the workplace, fire extinguishers and cleaning materials.

In recent years employers have become more aware of the dangers inadequate safety equipment poses on employee wellbeing – and the company’s bottom line. According to Eurostat, companies lost over 27-million work hours due to injuries on duty during 2015/16. Injuries on duty in South Africa are recorded by the Department of Labour and the Workman’s Compensation Fund. However, there have been calls for a more accurate reporting system to record the number of injuries and claims per annum.

Global trends, as reported by Eurostat, show that in the financial year of 2015/16 more than 51 percent of workplace deaths were as a result of falling from heights, and 50 percent of serious workplace injuries occurred from slipping and tripping. “PPE has immense benefits for both employers and employees. Employers are less likely to face legal action, which reduces production costs and staff turnover, and improves service delivery,” says Zwanepoel.

However, employers often lament the high costs associated with the implementation of safety regulations in the workplace. Instead, many choose to exclude a comprehensive safety plan altogether or opt for unscrupulous suppliers.

“If management is conscious of dangers in the workplace, safety is bound to improve significantly. Safety performance will become value driven and safety excellence will be maintained with the use of proper PPE, together with employees understanding the necessity of PPE in the workplace,” concludes Zwanepoel.

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