Enhancing Safety with SMEs

safeManica Group Namibia supports a number of initiatives aimed at creating employment and improving the living conditions of communities in which it operates. As part of its social responsibility investment, Manica, regularly supports small and medium businesses and has provided business skills training. In its latest support initiative, a subsidiary company of Manica, Walvis Bay Stevedoring has opted to use the services of a local SME named WHW Skills Training project for its safety clothing enhancements. The project was started by Queeny Erkana in 2007. “I realized the need for basic skills training like needle work in the community. It was tough starting a business, but today we produce a number of clothing articles for various companies. We also take in NIMT students to provide practical skills training,” she said.

Managing Director of WBS, Riaan Lottering, said during the course the company’s operation it was noticed that stevedores often carried heavy objects on their shoulders during offloading and loading operations at the harbour. “Although the wear the standard safety gear for this type of work, we felt that the stevedores needed extra protection. We enlisted Queeny to design and produce special shoulder pads that could complement the existing safety freezer jackets. We are very impressed with the quality of the work that Queeny’s team has produced and we challenge other companies to follow suite and make use of the services of SMEs. It is an investment well spent.”

Erkana previously worked at the now defunct ICEDA project where she also gave skills training classes. “Apart from needlework, my center also provides art and computer literacy classes. It is difficult for many to find jobs, and by giving them some basic skills we can improve their chances of finding employment. My aim is to empower those who cannot do it for themselves, especially women. So far we have successfully trained 80 people since 2007 and we have been actively involved in similar SME upliftment initiatives. We also had the honour of being appointed as SME representative at the Namibian Business Forum and the forthcoming Made in Namibia Expo. We are glad that Walvis Bay Stevedoring chose us to provide these services,” she added. Erkana encouraged other businesses to make use of SMEs as it would ensure a livelihood for their families and provide a track record of experience and skills.

In a related development; logistics giant, Manica Group Namibia has recently reached a safety milestone by achieving 300 ‘Lost Time Injury’-free days. As part of its drive to further enhance the health and safety standards and to reduce the environmental impact of its operations, Manica is also in the process of acquiring ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 accreditation. 50% Of the group’s various subsidiary companies have been certified ISO 9001 compliant, while the rest is in the process of obtaining the accreditation. In the few years the company has actively sought to lower its carbon footprint in all aspects of it operations. This included consolidating warehousing facilities, introducing an aggressive paperless environment, active recycling, cutting down and improved coordination of business travel (flight and road) and decreasing electricity usage to an only-if-really-necessary-state.

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