Legal Liability Training: Everything you need to know

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What is legal liability training? In law the word liable means to be responsible or answerable or in other words being legally obligated to perform or refrain from performing a task. Legal Liability includes both civil and criminal law and can arise from various areas of law. When we talk about preventing occupational injuries and illness in the workplace, we make reference to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 for general industry. Everything that is required from everyone involved in the workplace is outlined in this important Act and will protect both employer and employee if it is strictly adhered to. All employees from the chief executive officer to the person who sweeps the floors are employees of the organization and their occupational health and safety is protected by the health and safety act or correctly referred to as the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993. 

What is legal liability training?

Legal liability training will ensure that both the employer and the employee is aware of what is required of them by the Occupational Health and Safety Act, what to do in the event of a party failing to comply, as well as what the repercussions are should you fail to comply with the health and safety act. There is no excuse for the employer or employee to not be conversant with the Occupational Health and Safety Act as a copy of the Act must be displayed in the workplace, where more than 5 employees are employed, for everyone to read as per the General Administrative Regulations 4. This being said the Act could be confusing and a lot of information to understand.

Although legal liability training is not a legal requirement of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, like First Aid and Health and Safety Representative, it is highly recommended to ensure everyone understand and is compliant with the Act to prevent injuries and accident, fines, imprisonment or both! The legal liability repercussions of non-compliance with the Act can be seen in Section 38 of the Act.

What are the different types of legal liability?

There are different types of liability depending on. The most important types of liability in the occupational health and safety environment include:

  •     Criminal liability
    – This is where the State charges a person for a crime. This can be a common law crime such as murder and theft, or a statutory crime such as contravention of certain provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
  •       Civil liability – Where two or more persons (either natural or legal/juristic) mitigate against each other, normally for damage caused. Civil liability can also arise due to a breach in contract e.g. contractor sued for being in breach of health and safety agreement between two parties.
  •       Vicarious liability – This is where the employer is held liable for negligent acts of their employees.

·        Strict liability – Strict liability is when someone is found liable for damages without being at fault or negligent. An example of strict liability would be when a guard dog bites an unsuspecting passer-by.

What does the training course cover?

Legal liability training should be focused and adapted to the relevant industry for which the training is intended. It is pointless including the Mine Health and Safety Act or even some of the Regulations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act e.g. the Diving Regulations when you are working in the Banking Sector. However legal liability training should still include a structured approach which includes the following:

  •       Knowledge and understanding of relevant legislation – Important sections of the relevant Acts and Regulations should be discussed to ensure that employers, employees and contractors understand their legal responsibilities and how to be compliant.
  •       Requirements for being compliant – The structures needed to facilitate and enforce relevant legislation in the workplace are identified and explained to ensure compliance.
  •       Management controls needed to achieve compliance – Delegates should be shown how to draw up a compliance plan, the control measures that must be in place to prevent/control deviations, and how to measure effectiveness of current control measures.
  •       Record keeping – Keeping records is of crucial importance in order to have evidence that employers, employees and contractors are compliant with legal requirements! These records would include risk assessments, occupational health and safety training, organograms, inspection sheets, health and safety committee meeting minutes etc.

·        Training and communication – The legal obligations of the employer to provide training as per the Occupational Health and Safety Act as well as the communication of Health and Safety must be explained. Legal compliance training includes First Aid, Health & Safety Representative, Basic Fire Fighting and Evacuation Procedures. Occupational health and safety communication include safety committee meetings, feedback to employees from safety representatives, employee notices, toolbox talks etc. These are legal requirements which very few employers comply with.

Who should attend?

Like mentioned earlier, there is no legal requirement as to who should receive legal liability training in the workplace. However, everyone that has responsibilities as per the relevant Act/s should receive some form legal liability training to ensure compliance and to prevent possible fines and or imprisonment. In general industry this includes all employers (Section 8 of the Act), Chief Executive Officers (Section 16), Health and Safety Representatives Sections 17 and 18), the Health and Safety Committee (Sections 19 and 20), First Aiders (General Safety Regulation 3 of the Act), general employees (Section 14) and contractors to the business (Section 37).


When everyone understands applicable legal legislation, it would prevent non-compliance due to misinterpretation, underestimation, misapplication, or simply ignorance which could end up in the loss of lives, damage to property or businesses being closed by the Department of Labour!


How often must legal liability training be conducted?

Legal liability training should be available to everyone who works in general industry from the CEO right through to the employees on the floor. It is not necessary to repeat legal liability training on a regular basis if everyone in the organization understands what is required of them by law. It is a good idea to include legal liability training in the induction process for new employees to ensure they are conversant with the Occupational Health and Safety Act before they start work. Retraining would also be advised when Acts are updated and reviewed. By undergoing legal liability training an employer could save his or her company hundreds of thousands of Rands by preventing injury, damages or death due to negligence because they or their employees didn’t know what was legally required of them.

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.