Compliance is not a “nice to have”, but rather a way to create a prosperous business and better life
South Africa has numerous acts, regulations, directives, whitepapers, and SANS codes which governs the way we do business and live in harmony in our country. Without legislation it is impossible to govern and ensure the citizens of a country understand the roles and responsibilities of each person to have a prosperous life and business growth.
With the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen the strengths and weaknesses of our legislation and Governing Bodies. We have the opportunity to rectify these weaknesses and draw from the strengths we have seen. Things can change when they are in the light!
This blog is not focusing on the political side but rather on the personal responsibility of each South African Citizen to ensure we work together to change our country for the better. You as a legal citizen of our beautiful country have more power to change it than anybody else thanks to our Constitution!
Let us look at a few examples with focus on COVID-19 and the way the Governing Bodies used the existing framework:
Act: Disaster Management Act
Numerous concerns have been raised by industry and various governing bodies indicating the shortfalls in the act. The biggest of these for me would be the fact that the act allows for a National Command Council who has the legal right to develop and promulgate regulations at the drop of a hat. The NCCC don’t have to follow the normal legislative route to change or implement new regulations. This goes against our overarching act, the Constitution, which allows you and me as the SA citizen to comment on proposed legislation changes or additions.
Regulations & Directives: COVID-19 Regulations
All COVID-19 regulations and directives have been issued for implementation without consultation with SA citizens and industry initially. This has changed after a few court cases were lost by the NCCC where you will now hear ministers saying that they have consulted various bodies and industry before making a final decision on the regulations. The number of regulations is overwhelming and some even contradicting other acts and regulations.
Standards: SANS 289:2016 - Labeling requirements & SANS 490:2013 - Disinfectant alcohol-based hand rub
The COVID-19 regulations refer to the WHO requirements for disinfectants and sanitisers, yet we have sans codes which where not referenced. Another concern is that the regulations don’t reference SAHPRA, NRCS or SABS to approve a product before it is used in the market. Understandably the urgency to get the products to market would allow for some form of concession however this was not really thought through and our markets are flooded with non-compliant products.
Best Practice: COVID-19 ManagemEnt PLan
A COVID-19 Management Plan is used to pull all the different legislative requirements together and identify what is required to safely open the business doors for trade and how to prevent the spread of the virus. This all starts with a risk assessment to understand where the risks would be and how to mitigate / control / eliminate the risks. Some of these controls have been included in the regulations e.g. wearing of masks, sanitised hands, medical screening. The Management plan and even the Compliance Officer have been included in legislation however the problem is most businesses don’t understand how to conduct a health risk assessment or how to write a management plan. Those who run integrated systems or ISO systems will have no problem to do this but the medium to small businesses don’t know what to do.
Act: Occupational Health and Safety Act
The Act is used to ensure the employer and employee are protected when at work. The act is self-regulatory and those who understand the act, found the implementation of COVID-19 easy as it is just an extension of the existing management system to ensure compliance.
Regulations: Hazardous Biological Agents Regulations
The Regs attached to the OHSACT have been used successfully to manage the COVID-19 risk. The regulation refers to the health risk assessment and controls which would be required. This regulation however does need an update to have been reviewed to improve it with lessons learned. The new Regs have been issued for public comment.
Standards: SANS 289:2016 - Labeling Requirements & SANS 490:2013 - Disinfectant alcohol-based hand rub
These standards SANS standards have been linked to the Hazardous Biological Agents Reg and have been used by manufacturers and suppliers even before COVID-19. Where a business was compliant before COVID-19 it was just a matter of adding the COVID-19 specification to the existing system and requested an extension on the already approved products from SABS, SAHPRA and NRCS.
Best Practice: Integrated Management System
Where a business already managed an integrated system which includes Health, Safety, Environment and Quality, the implementation of COVID-19 would have been easy, and some controls would have been in place already.
There is other legislation which is also used to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and the discussion above is just an example of how it all fits together.
In my professional opinion and with the knowledge gained over the last 5 months, with over 100 business support plans, I can honestly declare it was easier for a business who has implemented the self-regulatory OHSA to implement and maintain a culture of health and safety during a pandemic like COVID-19 than for those who never bothered to implement the OHSA which is applicable to all even a one-man-operation.
Businesses who manage compliance through a management system at all levels in the organization already had a framework, implemented systems and health and safety culture which drives the behaviour of employers and employees to think before they do and implement what is best for the people and the business, based on a risk assessment and controls identified. All they had to do was to add COVID-19 to the existing framework and the behaviours followed.
What should I do next?
If you do not have a Health and Safety Management System in place, invest in one. Even if you start with a small budget to build the system systematically over a period of time.
Sign-up with a professional body who will notify you of any legislative changes. This is important as we have the opportunity to comment on any legislation which governing bodies want to promulgate. You do have a say, therefore ensure you comment on any legislation which may be issued for public comment. Associations who you can join in this regard: SAIOSH, Dear South Africa: Shape government policy to suit you.
Change starts with each one of us first asking the question - How can I change to improve South Africa for a better future for my children?
Use the existing tools and frameworks which have been proven to work over time.
I leave you with a quote from Michael Jackson’s song, Man In The Mirror – "I am starting with the man in the mirror – if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make that change."
Look out for my next blog which will discuss the benefits of integrated management systems and how it all fits together.