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Are your environmental obligations making you confuzzled?

by , 08 April 2013
Environmental concerns are now added to our job descriptions so let's make sure we all know about our duties and responsibilities!

Let's take a look at a few questions our subscribers have asked.

Selling food and chemicals is not a good idea!
I've noticed that in some supermarkets chemicals and poisons are being sold alongside food. Surely these customers are buying these products with their groceries. What would happen if the contents of these chemicals spilled into the groceries? Should supermarkets even be selling chemicals? These chemicals are kept on the shelves without adequate ventilation and you can even smell them! Are these supermarket employees trained in selling these products? 
Report your concerns to the Regional Inspector of the Department of Labour and ask them to do an inspection. I cannot comment on whether their staff are trained to sell chemicals. But yes it is a serious health and safety hazard if a product like Rattex contaminates food. It is an organo-phosphate and will cause internal bleeding if ingested.


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Why is shoving employees into the basement is a HIGH risk practice?
One of our subsidiary companies has moved premises. In the new office, there aren't enough offices for all the employees. They moved three employees down to the basement where they have created make-shift space for them. However, there are vehicles coming in and out all day with diesel and petrol fumes lingering around. Is this allowed under the health and Safety rules? 
This is a HIGH risk practise. The biggest threat is carbon monoxide poisoning which can be fatal. There is also the risk of developing occupational asthma form the exhaust fumes. They need to do an air quality survey ASAP to determine if this environment is suitable for office space. They are responsible for a safe working environment! The air quality will largely be determined by the ventilation available.
What are the PPE requirements for sealed lead acid and gel batteries?
My company imports, stores, delivers (to our customers) and disposes of sealed lead acid and gel batteries. Please can you advise on the PPE or any other requirements that would be applicable in this regard? The batteries are only a small portion of the business (the core business is security equipment manufacture – alarms etc.) We are aware of the disposal procedure so this has been attended to.
The people working with the loading and unloading of batteries should wear acid resistant overalls in case there is a damaged casing with an acid leak. Safety boots are essential and gloves a recommendation. If they are topping-up battery acid or battery water, then eye protection is required.
If you charge batteries then you need to make sure this is done in an area that is well ventilated and people working in that area need fume masks. The safe working environment should include a risk assessment so that you have all the paperwork as backup if there's an incident on site.
Can I dispose of lubricants into ordinary waste?
Section 59 of the Consumer Protection Act allows for returning packaging that is not allowed to be generally disposed into ordinary waste. Does this mean that we as a factory could send empty 25l polycans and 210l steel drums that contained industrial lubricants back to the supplier?
And if so, what can we do if they refuse to take the empties back?
Yes! Send it back to the supplier!
According to the environmental legislation the company who has produced the lubricants is responsible for the containers until they are adequately disposed of. It would be a good idea to discuss with them how you can send back the empty containers. The principle of 'polluter pays' runs through all our environmental legislation. In case that happened in Cape Town a few years back, an end user of a drum that had contained solvents was cutting the drum to make a bray drum. The drum exploded and the person was killed. The DoL traced the container back to the supplier and wanted to prosecute them! It took some fancy legal footwork for the supplier of the solvents to resolve their complicity.
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Our company has recently relocated premises. There were employees that stayed close to work that were impacted due to the move because our new premises are now further away.
The company decided to assist these members by offering a petrol card to the one person who would then have a lift club for members in the area to travel to work. The member that has the vehicle smokes in the vehicle and doesn't take into consideration the fact that they are members who don't smoke. The one member has come forward to me and asked me for a solution, I spoke to the member whose vehicle it is and asked the person to please not smoke while the members are in the vehicle. The member agreed not to smoke or stop alongside the road to smoke. What right does the member travelling with the person smoking have even though the car belongs to the person smoker? Is there any act relating to this?
As the employing company is providing funding for the lift club, the vehicle used is technically a work premise.  As such, the vehicle should be a non-smoking zone just as if it was an office or a workshop! You determine the health and safety of any environment so if you say no, it's no.

Remember, you can also get your questions answered, and answer other people's questions - all you have to do is register on the Health and Safety Club, it's FREE
Until next time,
FSP Business

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