A South African-based risk management expert has said most local firms are losing millions of kwacha due to safety related injuries because of non adherence to health and safety policies.
Casjahn Bierman, a risk management expert from Straight Africa Consultants in South Africa said this in an interview yesterday in Blantyre on the sidelines of a week-long health and safety policy training workshop organised by Lafarge Cement Malawi Limited for its employees.
He said companies incur huge costs in legal fees, insurance and financial support to victims and their families as well as some other hidden costs which include dwindling of employees’ morale and lost time in the absence of behaviour-based safety.
Said Bierman: “What Malawian companies need to do is to invest in its employees because with this comes a safe environment, better output from employees as well as safety behaviour.
“Teaching employees on risk management is not easy, but we need to understand that if people are well equipped in risk management, they stand a better chance of preventing accidents and injuries.”
He noted that increased incidences of work-related accidents and injuries due to disregard of health and safety standards scare away investors as no company would want to invest where huge sums of money will be channelled to avoidable operations.
Bierman said lack of proper understanding of policies and procedures among employees leads to destruction or malfunctioning and even loss of company property which may include machinery, vehicles and reliable employees, a situation which he said increases the cost of doing business for the affected company.
Weighing on the same, Lafarge Malawi health and safety manager Pilirani Nyemba, while acknowledging the importance of adhering to health and safety policies within companies, said there is more to building a safety culture than just complying with the policies.
“As Lafarge, we believe that for a business to achieve a zero fatalities and eliminate lost time injuries for our employees and contractors, we need to create a culture of safety consciousness by, among other things, creating a common language for safety communication in the work place and move from safety compliance to safety culture,” he said.
Nyemba said last year alone, the company recorded 1 940 incidences, including one fatal accident despite investing K50 million in the health and safety programme.
“We want to learn from past incidences and take action by conducting our business in a manner that leads to creating a healthy and safe environment for all stakeholders, including employees, contractors, communities and customers built on a true safety policy,” he said.
Multinational Lafarge is one of the cement manufacturing companies in Malawi.