What do the Kreepy Krauly, the dolos concrete block, Pratley Putty and Rooibos tea have in common? Well, as you probably know, they were all developed by South Africans in South Africa.
We often see lists of these and other inventions to cheer us up when we’re feeling a bit depressed about the state of the country. There is one ‘invention’, however, that I have never seen listed. Yet it is recognised as a world beater that has prevented countless injuries and saved thousands of lives, and in so doing has contributed to company profits.
It is the NOSA Five Star System developed by the National Occupational Safety Association in the early 1950s. Using the research of leading experts in human behaviour and management, the developers of the NOSA system incorporated the time-honoured principles of ‘goal setting’ and ‘management by objectives’.
Without exception, all the present protocols used to drive excellence in business in general and agriculture specifically, such as GlobalGAP and Fair Trade, are based on the same fundamental management principles used so long ago by the creators of NOSA. The men and women who had the vision, insight and tenacity to establish NOSA are unsung heroes.
Incredibly, this was a government initiative, and governments generally are not known for creativity and excellence in management!
Better than ever
In 2005, NOSA, with products much improved from 50 years’ experience, was sold to the private sector. It has continued to grow from strength to strength. I say ‘products’, but NOSA does not deliver something like the Kreepy Krauly, which you assemble, connect and set to work.
Instead, it provides a highly detailed road map that places the safety of your employees at the forefront of your organisation’s value system, and calls for ongoing effort from the organisation.
When I was persuaded to adopt the NOSA system on our farm, I didn’t foresee the enormous benefits, in addition to worker safety, that it would bring to us.
For example, poorly maintained equipment is dangerous and can cause injury. A focus on safety automatically drives the organisation towards improving its maintenance programme, which saves money in other ways as well.
Bad drivers and operators of equipment pose a danger to others. What is often needed to correct this is improved training of these operators or disciplinary action. The focus on safety puts new urgency in dealing with this.
Taking safety, and discipline, to another level
Chemicals can be extremely dangerous. Incorrect storage can pose a grave risk to workers. With NOSA in place, no more will you need to discipline someone for the lesser misdemeanours of ‘untidy storage’ or ‘faulty mixing’ of chemicals. Now you can apply discipline for the far more serious charge of ignoring company procedures.
Here is a real-life example. We had an electrician on the farm. He was reliable, expert and likeable, but he had a drinking problem. He was never visibly under the influence, but often had a smell of liquor about him. The disciplinary code was clear: no alcohol at work. But we could never pin anything on him. When we did take tentative disciplinary steps, the shop stewards defended him tenaciously. Then, with the full support of the union, we joined NOSA and sharpened our focus on safety.
The next time the man came up for discipline, it was not for alcohol abuse, but for posing a potential safety hazard. This time, the union supported us and it triggered the change in him we were hoping for.
If you haven’t yet done so, visit your nearest NOSA office, and take your first steps towards adopting a system that will change you and your organisation for ever. Visit nosa.co.za to find the branch closest to you.
Peter Hughes is a business and management consultant with 30 years’ farming experience.