Business needs to consider occupational safety - Safma

17th April 2009 By: Fatima Gabru

A constant challenge faced by accredited fire and first-aid training provider South African Fire and Medical Academy (Safma) is that there are too many businesses that place production above fire and occupational risk to employees, says Safma director Mark Ackers.

He comments that, "While, there are many company's who do not understand the dynamics of occupational health and safety, there are a growing number of companies that are taking their workers interest seriously." He states that it is these businesses that are taking the necessary steps to safeguard employees and assets against fire and occupational risk.

Ackers says that often businesses do not know who to approach about becoming fire safe. He says that there is a need for good research to find an accredited, quality fire-risk assessment, engineering and training institution. "This could even be the local fire department," he adds.

Safma offers a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis service to clients to evaluate a business's compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Following this analysis, the company offers its services to install and instill the necessary steps for compliance with the Act.

Ackers points out that a strong focus in occupational safety is the modification of management and staff behavior. He says that often a mind set change, to create an awareness of the health, safety and cleanliness of the work environment, is required. "Staff and management need to get the placement of work and safety equipment correct, as well as be trained in the correct operation of the safety equipment," he adds.

On a positive note, however, Ackers says that when made aware of occupational health and safety shortfalls, businesses are willing to rectify the situation.

Meanwhile, winning the First National Bank Enablis award in January has given exposure to Safma, with many enquiries from industry and investors.

Ackers comments that the award has created opportunities for the five-year old company and has motivated Safma to move forward with its growth strategy.

The company was also a finalist in state-owned power utility Eskom's business investment awards, in September last year.

Safma offers fire, first aid, health and safety, forklift and rigging training and consulting services at its premises, in association with the Department of Labour (DoL), the Transport Sector Education and Training Authority, the Cape University of Technology and the South African Maritime Safety Association (Samsa).

The academy's fire courses range from a five-hour fire extinguisher course to a two-day basic fire marshal's course. These courses fall under the parameters of the DoL.

In addition, the company offers services to the maritime and off-shore sectors through its maritime fire training courses and the advanced marine fire training courses.

The first-aid training, which fall under the DoL, covers levels one, two and three. The first-aid at sea course is underwritten by Samsa.

Safma issues course competency certificates for all its courses, which are assessed and moderated by internal staff, with a strong emphasis on the compulsory practical component.

"The trainees have to work with real fire situations and are expected to extinguish class A or ordinary combustible and class B or flammable liquid fires. These require the use of either or both portable extinguishers and fire hoses," Ackers explains.