Every company functioning in South Africa needs to legally comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993, which regulates and outlines what is needed to acquire health and safety compliance. The main function of health and safety compliance is to ensure a safe working environment for everyone that may be affected by an organisation’s activities. The Occupational Health and Safety Act should not be seen as just another obstacle that is there to prevent you from conducting business, but as a tool to ensure that no one is harmed in the organisation pursuit of profit making.
Let us give you 5 reasons why you should strive for health and safety compliance in your organization:
- Protects persons from injury, illness, disability or death – Throughout the Occupational Health and Safety Act both employers and employees are instructed to ensure the health and safety of themselves and everyone around them. By paying attention to hazards and risks in the workplace the amount of injuries and accidents would decrease, resulting in a safer working environment.
- Prevents damage to assets and the environment – When you pursue health and safety compliance you would be aware of your responsibilities, both as employer and employee, which would decrease risk. This aids in preventing unnecessary/accidental damage to assets and the environment, which could have far reaching consequences! Fire Prevention measures are an important part of maintaining your health and safety compliance. Fires can flare up quickly and cause extensive damage if the organisation is not prepared for it.
- Develop structures to implement and enforce occupational health and safety in the workplace – The first 6 sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act discusses the structures put in place by the government to implement the Act as a legal framework. Throughout the Act, these structures are discussed and depending on the size of your business, how you would need to implement them e.g. Health & Safety Representatives, Health and Safety Committees, 16.2 appointees, etc. These persons would assist the organisation to achieve health and safety compliance.
- Develop and upskill employees through training and supervision – Employers have a responsibility to train and develop their employees to ensure that they are competent in their functions and can complete work related tasks without exposing themselves to unnecessary risk.
- Prevents unnecessary financial loss – When a company maintains its health and safety compliance and implements its occupational health and safety initiatives in an uplifting manner, an organization would end up with a positive safety Health and Safety culture which would mean less injuries, damages to assets, downtime and product waste!
How does a company gain health and safety compliance?
By complying with the requirements laid out by the Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers will be guided to meet the minimum requirements for health and safety compliance. Some of the basic requirements often overlooked to gain health and safety compliance would include the following:
– Developing a Health and Safety Policy outlining the company’s occupational health and safety initiatives and how they will be implemented. This document needs to be signed by the CEO and displayed in the workplace where employees normally report for duty.
– Ensure that there is a copy of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and relevant regulations available at the workplace.
– Where more than 5 people are employed a First Aid Box must be available.
– Where 10 or more people are employed First Aiders have to be trained at a ratio of 1:50 people (1:100 in shops or office type environments).
– Where 20 or more people are employed, Health & Safety Representatives have to be trained at a ratio of 1:50 people (1:100 in shops or office type environments).
– Where there are more than 50 employees (2 or more Health & Safety Representatives) then a Health & Safety Committee has to be established with each member being appointed in writing.
– Train an adequate number of Firefighters and Evacuation Marshalls and appoint them in writing.
– Ensure all indoor emergency signage is constructed of photo luminescent material.
– Develop Emergency Evacuation Floorplans for the entire building.
– Conduct bi-annual mock evacuation drills.
– Conduct regular risk assessments.
– Conduct Incident Investigations for incidents, accidents and report them to the Inspector where required.
– First Aiders, Firefighters and Health & Safety Representatives to complete regular or monthly check sheets.
– Emergency Fire Fighting equipment must be serviced every 12 months by an accredited servicing company.
How is health and safety compliance maintained?
Health and safety compliance is not a once off achievement and organizations must strive to continuously update and renew their occupational health and safety initiatives to maintain a satisfactory level of compliance. When training certificates expire, key staff resign, new equipment is purchased, building maintenance is done, or when financial pressure forces the shift of attention from safety initiatives to sales targets, Organisations will slowly slide back into health and safety non-compliance. Ultimately it is easier and cheaper to maintain your health and safety compliance than redoing it every couple of years!
What are the consequences of non-compliance?
When an organization does not comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, their operations could ultimately be closed permanently by the Department of Labour Inspector. Companies also open themselves up to legal liability claims for injuries and occupational illnesses due to poor/hazardous working environments. When the general public finds out about dangerous working conditions, they tend to avoid doing business with such organisations, which can lead to negative financial impacts. Injuries on duty lead to down time and low morale amongst employees, which also has a direct effect with regards to a decrease in production / sales.
Section 38 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act states that when employers fail to comply with the Act they could be liable to fines of up to R100 000.00 or imprisonment of up to 2 years or both! This does not mean that employees cannot be held accountable! In fact, the OHS Act states that employees who fail to comply with the Act can be liable for fines of up to R50 000.00 or imprisonment sentences of up to 1 year or both!
The price of maintaining health compliance is clearly much less than the cost of health and safety non-compliance!