SHECASA sheds light on health and safety in the university environment
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SHECASA sheds light on health and safety in the university environment

Dr Natalie Skeepers delivered the keynote address

Azande Ralephenya

Did you know that in 2016, universities in the Gauteng region made 101 insurance claims in one year alone? This is a little less shocking than 2016’s stats which sit at 265 claims due to losses and damage. The current value of losses sits at R22-million for the year 201, for all universities. This is according to a presentation given by Stephen Wright, who is the Portfolio Manager for MARSH Risk Consulting.

The above information highlights the importance of having a risk management portfolio set in place at universities. It also highlights the need for safety and health officers in the educational environment.

The Safety, Health & Environment Campus Association of South Africa (SHECASA) held its 4th Annual Conference at the Three Rivers Lodge on 7 and 8 September. This year, Vaal University of Technology (VUT) hosted the organisation’s annual conference with over 70 Health and Safety reps from different universities in attendance.

Formed in 2012, the SHECASA conference aims to empower Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) professionals to add value at tertiary education institutions. The two-day conference proved a rewarding experience for the SHE officers, as industry experts shed some light on topics ranging from ergonomics, bulk chemical storage, waste management, events and safety compliance as well as major risks in terms of insurance.

Esmerelda Kerlen, who is a Human Kinetic Technology Director and a certified Ergonomist, provided interesting insights on how ergonomics is to be integrated into the SHE systems in South Africa.

Simply put, ergonomics is the study of people’s efficiency in the work environment. She used practical examples in which ergonomists study the work environment and provide solutions that help to get the job done effectively, preventing stress and body ailments in employees. Her advice ranged from the type of machinery and advanced technologies that should rather be used in factories for efficiency to posture and chairs that people need to use in the office environment. She said that the working environment is sometimes not made to suit the needs of people. This is where ergonomics comes in – to find the best possible solutions that promote a safe and healthy environment.

Other speakers included: Daniel Tshabalala, Director of HASLAC Holdings, who touched on the issues of compliance and quality checks; Andre van Rooyen, General Manager: Occupational Hygiene and Environmental Services, who presented on bulk chemical storage; Dr Susan Oelofse, CSIR Principal Researcher, who shared her expertise on waste management and the legislations pertaining to it; and Dr Basil Dhaniram, Occupational Medical Practitioner, who spoke on the role and importance of occupational safety and how it is interdependent. It’s not just a role left to safety officers but requires a basic understanding from the entire organisation.

The keynote address was delivered by Dr Natalie Skeepers, who is a renowned speaker, entrepreneur and governance, risk and compliance specialist. She presented a light-hearted yet informative talk focusing on empowering SHE professionals to add value in the promotion of safety and health in working environments.

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