What UCT could have done before the fires

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What UCT could have done before the fires

What UCT could have done before the fires

As the fire on Table Mountain in Cape Town spreads towards the city students and residents alike have been evacuated. The fire has claimed several structures including the Rhodes Memorial Restaurant and the 116-year-old library which was established in 1905. More than 200 firefighters are desperately trying to get the fire under control.

The fire prompted a mass evacuation of the UCT campus as winds fuelled the flames. The City of Cape Town’s Charlotte Powell stated that “Earlier we evacuated the Peppertree Street and Chelmsford Road in the Vredehoek area because of the heavy smoke. Properties are not in danger but just as a precautionary measure, we advised the residents to evacuate”.

It is suspected that the fire was arson. It is believed that it was started on the slopes of Devil’s Peak on Sunday where it quickly spread to the Rhodes Memorial and the UCT Upper Campus. The extent of the damage is still unknown.

While it is believed that no students or UCT staff were injured and all students and staff were evacuated in a timely manner, the questions that arise are: What can be done to improve on the great evacuation effort by all involved?

What can be done by an organisation?

Organisations can implement an international standard called ISO 45001:2018. It is a set of policies and procedures which helps an organisation of any size to increase safety, reduce risk and implement preventative measures. ISO 45001:2018 makes use of the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) process. The PDCA is a process used to achieve continuous improvement and involves:

  • Doing a risk analysis and identifying strengths and opportunities while developing objectives.
  • Planning to action those objectives.
  • Monitoring, measuring, and reporting on results.

One of the requirements of ISO 45001:2018 is that an organisation has an emergency evacuation procedure which has been tested. This will help an organisation to ensure they comply with the BY-LAW RELATING TO COMMUNITY FIRE SAFETY as gazetted on 28th February 2002 which states:

 

“The owner or person in charge of a school, hospital, residential institution, hotel, guest house, hostel or other similar occupancy which has a population in excess of 25 persons (including staff), must formulate an emergency evacuation plan detailing the appropriate action to be taken by the staff or the occupants in the event of a fire or other threatening danger.”

 

Why does an organisation need ISO 45001:2018?

To manage occupational health and safety (OHAS) risks. It is applicable to any organisation and delivers the necessary framework for an OHAS management system. OHAS is a health and safety program but also includes systems, health and safety policies, standards and records with regards to incorporating health and safety activities into a business based on the activities performed by the organisation and takes the Statutory and Regulatory requirements into consideration. This can be done in the form of a legal compliance audit done by an accredited and certified organisation.

How does ISO 45001:2018 benefit an organisation?

This standard plans for said risks. Organisations can use ISO 45001:2018 to identify potential risks, and eliminate or control the risk. Some of the other benefits of implementing ISO 45001:2018 include:

  • The reduction of injuries and disease in the workplace thus improving productivity.
  • The identification of safety hazards.
  • The achievement of sustainability through a proactive safety philosophy.
  • The fostering of management involvement and accountability.
  • A boost in stakeholder confidence due to a commitment to safety.
  • The identification of opportunities to increase safety in the workplace.
  • Planning for emergency situations.
  • Managing supplier’s Health and Safety.
  • Opportunities for continuous improvement of management systems.

Read more about ISO 45001:2018 here.

While nothing could be done about the outbreak of the fire, UCT could have had a better response plan to mitigate the risks associated with it. All organisations should have an OHAS System like ISO 45001:2018.

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