The Occupational Health and Safety Act: Explained

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Employees have the right to a healthy and safe workplace free of hazards and risks that may harm them during the course of their employment. The occupational health and safety act was established by the government and implemented and enforced by the Department of Labour.

The Department of Labour is involved in setting national health and safety standards, providing information to employers and employees, visiting as many companies as possible and generally making sure that our workforce stays as healthy and safe as possible.

Having a thorough understanding of the occupational health and safety act is important to anyone in charge of managing employees and the workforce, especially CEOs. At Absolute Health Services, we offer a health and safety officer course, a Health and Safety Supervisor course and a 16.2 workshop which all enable and offer business owners and senior higher management a greater understanding of the occupational health and safety act and how to implement the act’s requirements.

Where does OHS Compliance come from? 

Occupational health and safety in South Africa started towards the end of the 19th century. After the discovery of diamonds and gold in the late 1860’s there was a rapid development of the OHS industry as South Africa moved swiftly towards its 1st industrial revolution from a mainly agricultural society. As South Africa was a colony of the United Kingdom at the time, the systems in health and safety that were developed in the UK, were introduced to SA and from there all the required policies were then developed and introduced. The first health and safety policy focused mainly on safety procedures in the workplace but later the importance of workers health was also recognised.

“As the saying goes “a healthy workplace is a safe workplace” whereas, a safe workplace is not necessarily a healthy workplace. It was out of this realisation that the OHS Act was borne”.

Occupational Health and Safety Act South Africa – Regulation Scope

The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act 85 of 1993 is the law that aims to protect the well-being of all workers, visitors, and clients in the workplace. The OHS Act is enforced by the Department of Employment and Labour (DOL) who are responsible in setting national health and safety standards, providing information to employers and employees, visiting as many companies as possible and generally making sure that our workforce stays as healthy and safe as possible.

The OHS act has 50 sections and 22 regulations. Some regulations are general and apply to everyone, such as:

  • General administrative regulations;
  • Facilities regulations;
  • Environmental regulations.

The Hidden Benefits of Occupational Health and Safety in The Workplace

Occupational safety is an employee right and something that should be put into place to ensure the work environment is one free from unhealthy or unsafe factors.

According to the Workplace Compliance Safety blog post, incorporating a proper occupational health and safety act program in the workplace brings about a host of benefits such as:

  • Improved productivity
  • Decreases in absenteeism
  • Work premises are kept to a higher standard
  • Safe work environment = happier employees
  • Employee insurance claims decrease
  • Protecting and investing in the company’s most important asset – it’s employees
  • Winning and retaining business/clients
  • Safe work environment enhances your brand value

What Responsibilities do Employers Have?

It is the duty of the employer to ensure that they are adhering to government health and safety regulations. It is important to have a proactive Health and Safety programme in the workplace, with representatives supplied by both the employer and its employees. Employers have a duty to provide a safe working environment and it is the combined efforts and responsibility of the Health and Safety Officers, Supervisors and Representatives (the Health and Safety Team) to assist the senior or executive management team in maintaining a programme that ultimately:

  • Protects persons from injury, illness, disability or death;
  • Prevents damage to assets and the environment;
  • Prevents unexpected fires and accidents;
  • Prevents exposure to unnecessary occupational illness;
  • Prevents unnecessary financial loss.

A well-planned Health and Safety programme will improve the working conditions, decrease hazardous situations and in turn will reduce the risk profile of the organisation. Listed below are some guidelines which will assist you and can be taken into consideration when planning your Health and Safety programme:

  • Source an accredited, professional and reliable Health and Safety training and service provider, like Absolute Health Services, who will assist you in training your health & safety team as well as assisting you in implementing your Health and Safety plan or program;
  • Creation of a Health and Safety Committee. The Health and Safety Officer, Supervisors and Representatives and First Aid, Firefighting and Evacuation Planning team leaders all form part of the Health and Safety committee;  
  • Regular servicing and maintenance on machines, vehicles and electrical appliances;
  • Being aware of building regulations and repairing or replacing any faulty equipment or structural building damage or faults;
  • Correct use and maintenance of Personal Protective Equipment at all times;
  • Create a working environment that has the applicable and sufficient H&S and emergency preparedness equipment in the workplace, such as First aid boxes, firefighting extinguishers, evacuation plans etc. Absolute Health Services is able to supply, install and service a full range of Health and Safety Equipment;
  • Meet with the Health and Safety Officer, Supervisors and Representatives and set realistic and achievable H&S targets every year.

What is a Health and Safety (OHS) Manager

A health and safety manager is responsible for maintaining a minimum standard of health and safety requirements in a workplace in order to ensure that these minimum standards of safety that have been identified by the employer and regulators are complied with.

Even with the Covid-19 restrictions being lifted, employers are still required to inform the Department of Health and Department of Employment and Labour about any employee that has contracted COVID-19. 

What Happens to Companies That Are Non-Compliant?

Non-compliance with the OHS Act could result in receiving a contravention, improvement or prohibition notice from one of the Department of Labour inspectors and if not rectified in a specific period of time could result in a fine of R25,000 to R50,000 for each contravention. If someone is injured and OHS non-compliance is present, then the responsible individual /s could be held criminally liable and receive a jail sentence as well as a fine.  

Having a thorough understanding of the occupational health and safety act is important to any one in charge of managing employees and the workforce, especially CEOs.

At Absolute Health Services, we offer a Health and Safety Officer course, a Health and Safety Supervisor course and a 16.2 workshop which all enable and offer business owners and senior higher management a greater understanding of the occupational health and safety act and how to implement the act’s requirements. 

Prioritise Workplace Safety

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