Injury on Duty: A Guide for Businesses

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Any bodily pain or injury that an employee sustains while carrying out their work responsibilities, or as a direct result of their employment is referred to as an “injury on duty“. This covers a broad variety of injury events, such as trips, slips and falls, gear-related mishaps, repetitive strain and back injuries. Exposure to dangerous materials, chemical or environmental hazards such as noise, heat, cold or vibrations causing occupational diseases is also classified as an injury on duty.

The Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act 130 of 1993 (COIDA) is there to assist both the employer and the employee when an injury on duty occurs.

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Understanding COIDA and Injury on Duty (IOD):

The concept of an injury on duty, or sustained while at work is important for both the employers and employees to understand. Employers need to understand that they have a legal responsibility and are required by law to provide their staff at all times with a safe place to work. In  and also contribute financially to the . Employees in South Africa need to understand that in South Africa employees are able to obtain free medical treatment through the Compensation Fund, when they sustain an occupational injury or disease.

The Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) of 1993 is the legislation governing occupational injuries and diseases laws in South Africa. With the establishment of the Compensation Fund by this COID act, workers who suffer occupational illnesses or injuries while on duty would be entitled to receive compensation for occupational injuries and diseases.  

COIDA mandates that companies register with the Compensation Fund and make yearly employee earnings assessments and payments to the fund, which are determined by the income earnings of their employees. This then guarantees that on their employment at a company all workers are assisted financially should an injury or disease occur while employed. A “Letter of Good Standing” is issued by the Compensation Commissioner to all companies once their annual COIDA payments are made and up-to-date. This important letter can be used as proof that the company is compliant with the Department of Employment and Labour COID Act.

What to do and how to file a claim:

Step 1: Written or verbal notice of an injury at work is to be given to the employer before the completion of the shift. Good practice by the employer would be to make a list of all witnesses to the accident for the incident investigation. Complete form WCL2, Notice of Accident and Claim for Compensation, whenever an employee suffers an accident out of, or in the course of, employment that leads to personal injury, or where medical treatment is required, or in the case of death. It is the employer’s duty to submit the WCL2 to the Compensation Commissioner within a period of seven days.

For guidance on effectively documenting workplace incidents, see our detailed guide on How to write a workplace incident report.

Step 2: After receiving and registering the claim, the Compensation Commissioner’s office will forward a postcard (WCL55) to the employer. A claim number (reference number) is provided on the postcard. This number should be used for all paperwork relating to a claim. When the first doctor’s medical reports have been submitted with the accident report, the Compensation Commissioner will consider the claim and make a decision.

After the Compensation Commissioner has considered the claim, a postcard (WCL56) will be sent to the employer. The WCL56 will only be used by the commissioner when liability is accepted for payment of the claim. If a WCL56 is not issued, it normally indicates that the Compensation Commissioner has not accepted liability for any payment. If the worker disagrees with the decision they can appeal the decision within 90 days by submitting form W929 to the commissioner.

Step 3: If the injury continues for a long time (prolonged absence), the medical practitioner must send a Progress Medical Report (WCL5) to the Commissioner. The progress report should be submitted on a monthly basis until the condition is fully stabilised. This informs the Commissioner of how long the employee is off work.

Step 4: Once the medical practitioner handling the case is satisfied that the employee is fit for duty, the practitioner will issue a Final Medical Report (WCL5), which must be sent to the Compensation Commissioner. In this report the doctor states either that the worker is fit to return to work, or that the worker is permanently disabled.

The practitioner must send this form to the employer, who sends it to the commissioner. Please note that the Progress Report and Final Medical Report are on the same form (WCL5).

Step 5: When the employee resumes work, a Resumption Report (WCL6) must be completed and submitted to the commissioner. Only after each of these forms has been submitted will the Compensation Commissioner make all of the payments and close the case.

Step 6: The worker and the employer should keep copies of all the forms.

The Compensation Commissioner and Return of Earnings:

Based on the COID Act’s provisions, the Compensation Commissioner decides whether injured workers are eligible for benefits and what amount of compensation is acceptable for deciding on compensation applications.

A key component of compensation for cases of occupational diseases and injuries (IOD) is the idea of “return of earning” (ROE). It’s the process of figuring out how much compensation benefits an injured worker is entitled to by taking into account their average wages previous to the injury. In order to determine the financial impact of the injury on the worker and guarantee that they are fairly compensated for their missed work, ROE is essential.

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Fortunately financial compensation or assistance for injury on duty has been provided for in South Africa in the form of the COIDA Act and the Compensation Commissioner. All employers must therefore ensure that they are registered and compliant with the COIDA act, the Department of Employment and Labour and are in possession of a letter of good standing. 

Free Health and Safety Workplace Guide

Our comprehensive Health and Safety Guide is designed to simplify the process of implementing effective workplace safety practices. It provides clear and practical guidance to help employers, including HR and HSE managers, achieve compliance with regulations and create a safe working environment for their employees.