Safety at markets

Occupational health and safety (OHS) play a crucial role in the workplace. So much so, that the Occupational Health and Safety Act lays down a host of precise legal requirements for employers and employees.

Mike Cordes - Market Floor

The big question is: what do fresh produce markets actively do to ensure the safety and well-being of people, infrastructure and products? From what I can see, very little!

The management of some markets do make an effort, but the majority seem to be blissfully ignorant of their responsibilities. They will learn these pretty smartly if something goes wrong!

Human nature being what it is, people tend to respond only when there’s a crisis, and then it’s usually too late. Imagine a fire raging through one of the larger markets.

Because of the design of the sales areas of these buildings, I like to think that people could be evacuated relatively easily. Some stock might even be saved. But if it didn’t go well, what then?

What if there were injuries, even fatalities? Are those responsible geared for responding quickly and effectively? Are adequate evacuation procedures in place? Are there suitably trained first aid officers on hand? What about fire marshals?

Progress and regress
Although the OHS function rests primarily with the market authority, the latter has to work with market agents to make OHS procedures effective. A few years ago, the Joburg Market went a fair way to establish OHS procedures in the sales halls.

Unfortunately, this initiative foundered after the person driving it resigned and his replacement was a long time in coming. Management has now resuscitated the plan and hopefully one of these days the market will have its OHS procedures back in place.

Many of the markets should do the same – sooner rather than later. I shudder when I think of some of the markets and the potential for serious damage to people and property they harbour within their precincts.

Probably the greatest hazard is forklift drivers who whizz around irresponsibly on a market floor crowded with people.

Michael Cordes is an agricultural journalist, consultant, trainer and former farmer.