While safety, health, environment and quality (SHEQ) compliance is usually seen as the responsibility of the employer, it also needs the support and active involvement of employees. Considering the consequences of poor SHEQ compliance, it should be a logical priority to follow the established policies and procedures as a matter of fact.

The failure to adhere to SHEQ policies and procedures can have dire consequences for both employer and employee.

While the employer can be held responsible and be liable for damages according to the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1993, the employee can suffer serious injury and face long-term health issues, or even death. In fact, some reports suggest that as many as 80% of all accidents in the workplace are caused by unsafe acts of workers.

Here are some tips to maintain SHEQ compliance and stay safe in the workplace.

Make sure all employees have a basic understanding of first aid and that there are appointed employees trained and certified in first aid in the workplace. Basic principles under SHEQ principles would include the appropriate response in case of medical emergency, CPR, what not to do – e.g. move someone with possible back or internal injuries unless necessary – and how to react to and the basic treatment of shock and conditions such as asthma and epilepsy.

Another big potential threat is fire, yet few workplaces have measures beyond the prerequisite firefighting SHEQ equipment. A good idea is to have at least one employee trained and certified in firefighting, with the rest of the employees aware of basic principles; regular fire drills are also encouraged.

Make sure that all employees have undergone basic training on the SHEQ policies and procedures and that this is also included and prioritised in the induction training of all new employees. Anyone joining the company should undergo induction training as soon as possible; failure to do so might result in catastrophic event in the case of an emergency or failure to comply to the SHEQ policies and procedures.

Make sure that all employees are trained to use the equipment, tools and machinery they use as part of their jobs, and that they know how to use this equipment in a such a manner that is safe to both themselves and their co-workers.

Keep machinery well maintained and clean to avoid any malfunctions; also ensure that machinery, equipment and tools are kept in a safe place when not in use, with restricted access.

The physical work environment can pose a serious SHEQ hazard, so have measures in place to minimise this risk. Make sure that the premises are well-ventilated, that safe storage for hazardous materials are provided and that walkways are steady and sturdy, with no risk of slips, spills and falls. Stairs should be sturdy and railings should be secure.

Make sure that any potential SHEQ hazards that cannot be eliminated, e.g. electrical cords necessary to power machinery, stacks of containers or steps/low ceilings are clearly indicated and warnings are visible well in advance of the hazard.

Make sure that emergency plans and evacuation points are displayed around the workplace so that employees know what to do and where to go in case of an emergency event. Have emergency exit routes marked in fluorescent signs and make sure emergency exits are accessible and safe to use. When things go wrong, people tend to panic and make mistakes, so take this into consideration when implementing these emergency measures.

PPE (personal protection equipment) should be made available to all employees and there should be spare PPE in case it is needed. PPE forms a big part of ensuring SHEQ compliance in the workplace and is one of the main priorities all employers as well as employees should have.

All PPE needs to be inspected regularly to ensure that it is in perfect working condition and safe to use. Maintenance is important in keeping PPE safe, as is storing it in a safe and appropriate manner.

Have an information board where you have a copy of the OHS Act displayed, as well as any updates on SHEQ policies and procedures and the latest SHEQ news.

There should be a formal process where incidents in the workplace are reported. This is a big priority in SHEQ compliance as it can prevent future incidents and improve the safety of the current work environment. Regular SHEQ records should be kept and used to provide reports on any recurring issues as well as to form a safety strategy in the workplace.

Do regular risk assessment and involve employees – their safety and good health depend on SHEQ compliance, so they need to be active stakeholders in perfect and continuous SHEQ compliance. Do a walkabout of the workplace and identify potential hazards and instances where more safety measures could be of value. Allow employees to give input – as they work with the equipment and machinery and spend their whole day in the work environment, they might see things that you might have missed.

Have regular toolbox talks with employees where they get the opportunity to give insight into their experience in the workplace and can make requests regarding issues they feel should be addressed.

The procedures for reporting any SHEQ hazards or health risks should be familiar to all employees – they need to know when to report to their supervisor any issues, as well as who the designated safety officer is. They also need to know who the first aid officer is and where first aid material is kept to ensure instant action in case of emergency.

Having these measures in place goes a long way to ensuring SHEQ compliance in the workplace and safeguarding both employee and employer.