On 14 June 2022, the RMI circulated a newsflash advising members that the Hazardous Biological Agents (HBA’s) Regulations were published by the Minister of Employment and Labour on 16 March 2022, in terms of section 43 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1993 (OHSA). The Regulations categorise HBAs into four risk groups according to their hazard and categories of contaminant and require employers to control the exposure to HBAs in the workplace via various reasonably practicable measures.
Whilst the newsflash at the time concentrated mainly on COVID-19 as a Group 3 HBA, members need to note that there are several other HBA’s contained in the 4 listed groups that may be present in specific workplaces and employers must identify these HBA’s and take the necessary steps to prevent and/or control employees exposure to them.
Even though the spread of COVID-19 has slowed down considerably in recent months which has led to several of the various legislations regulating the pandemic being relaxed, members need to be cognizant of the fact that the HBA regulations remain in force. Employers must remain vigilant and ensure that they are compliant in terms of the HBA regulations concerning COVID-19 and all other listed HBA’s.
The Regulations place certain obligations on employers, as listed below, and where employers fail to meet these obligations, fines or imprisonment may result. Employers are required to: –
- Inform, train, and guide employees on the dangers of the HBA and the required safeguards against exposure.
- Appoint a competent person to orchestrate a risk assessment of the workplace to identify possible HBA’s.
- Disseminate to employees the results of the risk assessment, accompanied by the steps to be taken regarding the risks so identified.
- Initiate an exposure monitoring program (as per workplace-specific risk assessment).
- Initiate a documented system of medical surveillance that is overseen by an occupational health practitioner (as per workplace-specific risk assessment).
- Maintain the corresponding records for a minimum period of 40 years.
- Promote the use of preventative measures against exposure to the HBA in the workplace, such as personal protective equipment and facilities.
For a more in-depth understanding of the regulations it would be prudent to watch the following expert panel discussion that was recently hosted by NEDLAC and the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH):
The RMI will continue to update you, our valued Members, on changes in this regard if and when they develop.