Think, and take care

10 April 2012

It's sobering to note how often individuals turn a blind eye to health and safety risks and hazards in the office, teaching and research environments, sometimes risking their wellbeing and that of others.

"The sense of caring for each other has disappeared," lamented Michael Langley, UCT health & safety manager.

The biggest "culprits", he said, are contractors and university members who take 'shortcuts' with the health and safety aspects of their work. These include staff who don't use the university's waste management systems developed for hazardous substances, those who keep hazardous materials in improper storage cupboards rather than in proper purpose-built storage facilities, and those who obstruct legally required emergency evacuation routes.

Every individual, staff and student must bear the responsibility for health and safety, Langley noted.

"It is a concern when a student or staff member gets injured in the office, teaching or research space, and management in the area don't know what steps to follow.

"If we can start following the rules again and avoid shortcuts, then we can revive the health and safety culture in the university environment," suggests Langley.

In an attempt to revive that health and safety mindset, Langley's department will host the inaugural UCT Safety Week from 23 to 26 April, ahead of the World Day for Health and Safety at Work on 28 April. Previously the UCT campaign was a one-day affair, but the university has decided that the topic needs more exposure.

Themed Setting the Standard for a Safer and Healthier Environment, the campaign aims to create awareness about health and safety issues on campus, and to showcase the work that the department is doing in this regard, Langley explains.

Collaborating with vendors and service providers, the department will, for instance, explain and illustrate the measures that are followed to ensure that the food sold at UCT is safe, how people should behave on construction sites, and how to react in emergencies.

"It's all about understanding that health and safety is a legal requirement, and people have a responsibility to themselves and others."

Langley's department is also taking up its awareness programme with managers, staff and student bodies.

For a full programme of events, see the classified.

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