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Health & Safety at the Workplace According to OHSA Requirements

Employers must ensure that they are well-educated regarding the requirements of the Occupational Health & Safety Act of South Africa. The act provides guidelines and stipulates requirements and responsibilities of employers and employees in creating and sustaining safe and healthy work environments. For such, we recommend making use of our health and safety consultants to review the safety systems in place, recommend appropriate training and assist in the implementation of OHSA compliant management systems.

OHSA doesn’t cover the employees on ships and in mines, but does cover all other employees, including domestic and farm employees.

The workers also have specific responsibilities, such as taking the necessary precautions to safeguard against injuries and disease. They have the responsibility to follow safety instructions and must immediately report any unsafe procedures, actions of employees or conditions that can affect their or other employees’ health and wellbeing. Such reporting must be done timely and submitted to the health and safety officer or the supervisor. Where the employee purposefully damages the employer’s property, the employee can be held responsible for the cost of repairs or replacement.

The employer has the responsibility of creating and maintaining a safe and healthy work environment, and must provide the necessary warning signs of hazards, instructions for safe operation of equipment and handling of materials, procedures to follow in emergencies and must not allow employees to perform unsafe tasks. The employer decides what constitutes a safety or health threat, and here again, the expertise of health and safety consultants is exceptionally valuable.

Manufacturers must ensure that the products they produce are safe to work with and that their employees have the required protective clothing when working with hazardous substances. Employees have the right to be informed, should they need to work with any dangerous equipment, materials or substances.

Safety representatives must be appointed and the employer needs to consult with the various employee organisations regarding possible safety officers. Other responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Informing employees of hazardous conditions.
  • Providing the employees with the required training to perform their tasks safely.
  • Providing and ensuring that employees wear safety clothing.
  • Preventing employees from using equipment if they don’t adhere to safety regulations.
  • Ensuring proper working and thus regular maintenance of equipment.
  • Applying warning signs to dangerous equipment.
  • Informing workers who are in control of the operations and safety of employees.
  • Providing for safe escape routes.
  • Informing and training workers regarding emergency procedures.
  • Preventing the removal or disturbance of evidence at a scene of injury.

Employers may not dismiss or take disciplinary actions against employees who complain about unsafe working conditions or who provide information about the working conditions to a health and safety inspector, or who refuse to work in an unsafe work environment.

Reporting on Incidents

Accident reporting must be done promptly. The employer must keep meticulous record of all safety, health, accident or injury related incidents in the workplace, and submit such to the Department of Labour and the relevant safety representative.

One safety representative must be appointed for every twenty employees on the premises, with a minimum of one representative for fifty employees. If there is more than one representative at the premises, then the employer must also appoint a safety committee who meets at least four times annually, to address safety issues affecting the employees at the workplace.

The Department of Labour appoints health and safety inspectors who have the right to visit workplaces where they review documents, interview employees and require clarifications. Should an employee be injured at the workplace as the result of negligence on the part of the employer, then the employer can be imprisoned for up to two years and/or pay a hefty fine.

The employer must inform the safety representatives if the employer received a notification from the Department of Labour regarding a safety inspection to take place. It is imperative to have adequate channels of communication and reporting regarding safety and health at the workplace. Employers must see to it that the employees clearly understand danger warnings and risks at the workplace.

Employers and employees must work together to create and maintain safe workplaces, and it is therefore imperative to implement health and safety systems that meet international standards and the statutory requirements of OHSA. Our health and safety consultants have the expertise to assist in this regard, in addition to training, and conducting internal and external audits.