Cape Town: South African businesses can look forward to a new on-demand service for Workplace health and safety with the launch of OHS-On-Demand which may also have a major impact on the OHS Consulting industry.
OHS-on-Demand is an innovative program that replaces the need for a full-time Safety officer, using information technology to take care of the various risks and hazards of the workplace and the associated routine functions normally co-ordinated by a full time safety officer or consultant.
OHS-on-demand is developed and maintained by Network 9, a business unit of The High Option Ltd and plans to open 9 tech support offices in South Africa; one in each province, in the coming 12 months.
Phase 1 will allow Employers with 20 or less employees to have a dedicated OHS Officer in their business who will take care of all the legal appointments and assist with workplace audits and will be available from 1 November 2019 for R175 per month.
The service will be available to all industries excluding Construction and Mining, which falls under different rules and regulations.
As a client, you will be able to download all the OHS documents required by the Occupational Health & Safety Act of 1993 and its various regulations. And you will have expert technical support during working hours to guide you through the implementation and maintenance processes.
OHS-on-Demand also offers OHS legal advice via email / whatsapp and will keep you updated on new developments in the OHS legal framework.
You no longer have to pay a consultant to develop your OHS document system, as everything you can download has already been developed by OHS advisors with years of experience.
OHS-on-Demand will save you thousands of rands each year with a monthly subscription less than the hourly rate of an OHS consultant.
Sheqafrica.co.za’s Editor interviewed Johan du Preez, Operations Manager at Network 9, to find out more about OHS-on-Demand. Here is a transcript:
How does this new concept work and why should employers use it?
“Employers may use OHS-on-Demand as a self-help tool to implement the requirements of the OHSAct in their companies. All the legal documents are available in MS Word and Excel and can be downloaded and branded for the company. There is also no limit or restriction in terms of copyright etc.”
How would an employer know where to start once he or she have downloaded the documents?
“For each document in our library, we have an explanatory article on our website, which explains what the document is for and what regulation or section of the Act applies to it. We also provide information on who needs to sign appointments and who is not authorised to do so. Basically, everything a business owner needs will be available on our website and if it isn’t yet, we offer full support and advice via telephone and email.”
What about the risk assessments that needs to be carried out by a competent person?
“Firstly, the current requirement for a risk assessment does not say it needs to be carried out by a person with a HIRA certificate. That only applies to the Construction industry. Section 8 says the employer must evaluate the hazards in the workplace and provide the means to reduce the hazards as far as reasonably practicable. Be that as it may, our Technical Support team are qualified in OHS and will assist in the development of the risk assessments.”
Are you saying your team will perform the risk assessments?
“Yes, in fact it is exactly what we offer. Using available technology, we can perform a risk assessment remotely and draft a risk management plan. From there, the employer can use the documents in our library to manage the risks according to the plan.”
So, how would you do that if you don’t visit the premises?
“We will use technology for that purpose and if there is any uncertainty, a physical inspection will be carried out. But for most of the workplace hazards, it’s a universal principle that applies. We use those universal principles for hazard recognition in our program. It really isn’t the rocket science it is made out to be.”
What in your opinion would be the level of acceptance of the program?
“We didn’t develop it if we didn’t believe it will be accepted by business. What we do foresee is a large deal of opposition from the OHS fraternity. Our program is the culmination of years of experience into a very affordable solution and it will surely put a few consultants out of business.But our intention is not competition. Our intention is innovation. And the end result is safer workplaces for those who cannot afford consultants and permanent safety managers.”
Would the program be accepted by the Department of Employment and Labour?
“Yes, it would, if they are serious in doing their jobs. Adding to that, under no circumstances will we ask them for endorsement, and frankly, they won’t grant it either if they are to remain unbiased. What I can say is that the DEL won’t even know it is our program if it is implemented correctly. They cannot force an employer to use an external program, and have to accept an internal program if it meets legal requirements. OHS-on-Demand is exactly that; an internal program developed by the employer with our assistance.”
Why are the pricing so low? Your packages start at R175 per month. Isn’t that below value?
“We opted for affordability in our offering. As phase 1 is specifically developed for small companies, the entry level fees are in our view less that a one hour consultation. Larger companies will pay a bit more, but the monthly fee won’t exceed the hourly rate of a senior OHS consultant.”
What then is the monthly fee for?
“Surely, that is not a relevant question? But the technical experts are not working for free. In addition to the free downloads, we also offer telephone and email support and we have no idea how frequent this would be needed. Our forecast is that each support request would take around 30 minutes to resolve and that is what we based our pricing on.”
Is there a limit to the number of support requests an employer can lodge?
“No, they can request assistance as often as needed, but we will be prioritising requests based on the nature thereof. The common questions will be answered in our knowledge base, while more technical questions will be handled in person. Employers who abuse or over-load the system with “silly” requests will be managed.”
Would the service be available to employed OHS Officers in companies?
“The program is not designed for companies with inhouse OHS staff, but yes, it is available to anyone who can benefit from it.”
What is the “information technology” you intend to use?
“Let me answer this by saying that we are not using any system sold commercially by any competitor or reseller. All our IT is open source and freely available to anyone who wants to copy our concept. But we know how to utilise this to our advantage, where our competitors either opt for pricey bespoke solutions or none at all. And we have tested most OHS software systems and found them too complicated and time consuming for the purposes of legal compliance. We keep it simple, rather than impressive. And we have had positive results with some other products we have developed over the last few years. OHS-on-Demand is no different, with the same high level of quality.”
Who is the technical experts behind the program?
“We have contacted some of SA’s leading OHS advisors and asked them to assist in the development of the library. All the documents have been or are currently being used in large corporate companies and have been tailored to suit the SMME sector. And we will be offering 18 agencies to provide the tech support going forward to qualified OHS Practitioners with at least a Professional designation issued by the Institute of Safety Management.