Ergonomics Regulations vis-à-vis Employers’ Duties

 Bruce McFadzean   2022-02-22  Comments
Screenshot 2022 02 22 142506

Many of us will remember the hype and fanfare that accompanied the new Construction Regulations in 2014. Contrary to that publicity, Ergonomics Regulations was gazetted on 6th December 2019. Whether or not there was an intention to splash out in public at a later stage we will not know, as barely a month later “2019-nCoV” upstaged everything else in the universe as we know it.
 
Nonetheless, not even the Declaration of a National State of Disaster on 15th March 2020 derogates from the prescripts of the Ergonomics Regulations (ERR).  The ERR, when not adhered to, can have momentous implications for Employers. ERR Section 6(1)(a) states that:
An employer must, before the commencement of any work that may expose employees to ergonomic risks, have an ergonomic risk assessment performed by a competent person.

 

At first glance, this doesn’t seem to be too frightful – after all, if an employer has not had the prescribed Risk Assessment performed by a competent person, and he is visited by the Department of Employment and labour, he will most likely be slapped with a contravention notice and given 60 days to comply, right? Well, we can’t comment on that, but we have a more insidious question: What if he is not visited by the Department? Let’s unpack that one.
Typical ergonomic work-related injuries have one thing in common – they are not traumatic, meaning the onset is not sudden with an easily identifiable cause. Conversely, the onset is gradual, and the symptoms are often ignored until they become severe enough to seek medical attention. At this point, the damage is already done. This is especially true of WRULDS (Work Related Upper Limb Disorders) and MSD (Musculoskeletal Disorders). And this means that an employer who has not been visited by the inspector, may years later be exposed to massive class-action lawsuits which will be very difficult to defend if he cannot show evidence of his properly researched and documented Ergonomics Risk Assessment, done by a competent person.

To add insult to injury, it is not without merit to suggest that unscrupulous employees have an open invitation to palm off the cost of their recreational injuries on the employer, simply because there is no Risk Assessment and Ergonomics program in place to support the employer’s defence against the claim. For example, I sit at home on a couch and scroll through social media platforms for hours on end, after work. When I develop Lower Back Pain as a result of months of bad posture over extended periods, I blame the ergonomics of my employer’s workstation – so, without a Risk Assessment: Employee 1, Employer 0.
 
Contact admin@shefiles.co.za if you’re an employer who wants focus on business rather than expensive and time-consuming distractions.

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