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What does the OHSA say about ventilation in the workplace?

by , 07 October 2013
You probably already know that ventilation removes unpleasant smells and excessive moisture. And that it includes both the exchange of air to the outside, as well as circulation of air within the building. But do you know what the Occupational Health and Safety Act says about ventilation in the workplace? Read on to find out...

You must comply with the OHSA when it comes to ventilation in the workplace.

But do you know what the OHSA requires you to do?

Here's what the OHSA needs you to do when it comes to ventilation in the workplace

The OHSA says you should start by conducting a risk assessment. This assessment must be done by a competent person, using equipment specially designed to measure the air quality.

The equipment is easy to use and gives a clear indication of what type of chemicals are in the air in your work environment.

The tests are important! They'll help you establish if the chemicals in the air are of a high risk or low risk. You can then use these results to implement the necessary steps to minimise the risk.

The OHSA also requires you to make sure your workplace is ventilated either by natural (wind), or mechanical (aircon, fans) means.

You must make sure:

  • The air your employee's breathe doesn't cause harm to their health or safety. For example, employees working in a dusty environment must wear the necessary PPE (dust masks) to minimise the risk and exposure to dust.
  • The time-weighted average concentration of carbon dioxide (C02) taken over an eight hour period must not exceed 1.5% by volume of air. A time-weighted average is used to calculate your workers' daily exposure to a hazardous substance or agent. This is averaged to an eight-hour workday. It takes into account the average levels of the substance or agents in the time spent in the area.
  • The concentration of any explosive or flammable gas, vapour or dust doesn't exceed the lower explosive limit of that gas, vapour or dust. You can find the exposure limits under the Hazardous Chemical Substances Regulations.

Also keep in mind that failure to comply with this regulation can lead to a fine of R1 000 or imprisonment of up to six months. And your employee can report you to the Department of Labour as well as the Department of Health if you don't provide proper ventilation in the workplace, warns the Health&Safety Advisor.

Remember, poor ventilation is a health and safety hazard. Like all hazards, it poses a risk to your employees' health and you must eliminate or control this hazard.

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