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Department of Labour convenes seminar on dangers posed by Hazardous Biological Agents

by lloyd last modified 2014-09-18 14:39

18 September 2014

The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act states that: “every employer shall provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of their employees”.

In ensuring this is so, the Department of Labour’s Inspection and Enforcement (IES), will on September 26 host a Hazardous Biological Agents (HBA) seminar as part of its advocacy to ensure compliance with health and safety legislation.

In terms of OHS Regulations for Hazardous Biological Agents, a biological agent is defined as: “any micro-organism, cell culture or human endoparasite, including any which have been genetically modified, which may cause an infection, allergy or toxicity, or otherwise create a hazard to human health”.

The agents are divided into various groups and includes those that are unlikely to cause human disease, and those that can cause severe human disease.

The theme of the department’s seminar is: “Improving OHS in the Health Sector”. The Seminar will be held in Bela Bela, at the Aventura Resort in Limpopo. The Seminar will start at 8:30am.

Although the Department of Labour through its Inspection and Enforcement Service (IES) enforces compliance to legislation, employers under the ambit of  the Occupational Health and Safety Act also have an obligation to ensure a safe working environment for their employees.

The legal responsibility for health and safety rests primarily with the employer. It is their responsibility to make sure that organisation has the necessary management framework to ensure compliance with health and safety legislation. One aspect of this management system will be the control of exposure to hazardous substances including biological agents.

Micro-organisms are found virtually everywhere in the natural environment. Most of these are harmless to humans and do many important jobs. However, certain micro-organisms can cause disease and employees may be exposed to them at work.

In health care institutions, patients come in daily suffering from various infectious diseases, thus spreading biological agents and exposing employees to them.

There are mainly four sources of infection in which employees might be exposed to biological agents at work:

·          Blood and other body fluids e.g. saliva;

·          Human waste products such as faeces, urine and vomit;

·          Respiratory discharges such as coughs and sneezes; and

·          Skin – direct contact.

Thus, the employer must ensure that the following measures are in place as required by the Regulations for Hazardous Biological Agents: in terms of legislation employers have a duty and a legal responsibility to ensure a number of measures are put in place to prevent as required by the Regulations for Hazardous Biological Agents: a risk assessment strategy;  identify the hazard; assess the risk; controlling the risks.

Other additional measures to consider include: supplementary controls; security and access; disinfection and disposal procedures;  information and training; use and maintenance of controls; handling incidents/emergency planning; medical surveillance; labelling, packaging, transporting and storage; and disposal of waste containing HBAs.

The seminar is expected to be addressed by Department of Labour Deputy Director-General of IES, Thobile Lamati; Department of Labour Director: Occupational Health and Hygiene (OHH), Milly Ruiters; Deputy Director: OHH

Jabu Mhlope; Department of Labour Manager: Health & Hygiene, Bulelwa Huna; Department of Labour’s deputy director: Health and Hygiene Elize Lourens. There will also be speakers from the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH); the Approved Inspection Authority and Geozone.

The Seminar will be preceded by a one-day training on September 25 of shop stewards on matters of HBA Regulations; OHS Act; Chemical Stressors Regulations; Physical Stressors Regulations; Machinery Regulations; and reporting of injuries and diseases.

Topics for the Seminar will focus on OHS, health and safety compliance in public hospitals; the vision of National health; cross contamination and infection control; medical surveillance and biological monitoring; waste management in public hospitals; monitoring and control of the working environment.

Media is invited to attend the Hazardous Biological Agents seminar.

Issued by the Department of Labour Communication Directorate:
For more information contact

Johannes Mokou

Limpopo Provincial Spokesman

082 908 1833



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