NOTE: This Occupational Health and Safety act summary was written in the interest of the health and safety of workers in South Africa and is not intended as a substitute for the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1993. It is intended to explain the Act in simple, non-legal terms to all the role players in the South African occupational health and safety field. Please refer to the full Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act, No. 181 Of 1993.
All employees, including members of management, can benefit from an Occupational Health and Safety act summary. The act is a lengthy document and may be difficult to fully understand, but it’s important that the OHS Act is understood by as many employees within the company as possible, especially management.
If you don’t have an understanding of a good summary of the Occupational Health and Safety act, how is the company able to enforce it? And how can you be assured that the company is compliant?
Background of the OHS Act
The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act 85 of 1993 is the law that seeks to protect the well-being of workers. The OHS Act is enforced by the Department of Labour, whose inspectors may:
- Enter any workplace without prior notice;
- Request any document;
- Inspect any condition, process, plant or article;
- Take samples or seize any article;
- Question or summon any person within the workplace.
The main aim is to ensure the health and safety of employees at work and also aims to protect people other than those employees at a workplace from hazards arising out of or in connection with the activities from the employees at the workplace.
It can be said that the Occupational Health and Safety Act is a pro-active attempt by the government to prevent and avoid work-related injuries and illnesses. The Act governs the health and safety for the diverse industry of South Africa. It regulates and controls health and safety in all organisations, from a normal office environment to more hazardous environments like industrial plants and construction sites.
Sections of the OHS Act
South Africa now has the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993, which has 50 sections (each has rules and regulations) and 22 regulations.
Section 1: Definitions, classification and exclusions
Section 2: Establishment of Advisory Council for Occupational Health and Safety
Section 3: Functions of Council
Section 4: Constitution of Council
Section 5: Period of office and remuneration of members of Council
Section 6: Establishment of technical committees of Council
Section 7: Health and safety policy
Section 8: General duties of employers to their employees
Section 9: General duties of employers and self-employed persons to persons other than their employees
Section 10: General duties of manufacturers and others regarding articles and substances for use at work
Section 11: Listed work
Section 12: General duties of employers regarding listed work
Section 13: Duty to inform
Section 14: General duties of employees at work
Section 15: Duty not to interfere with, damage or misuse things
Section 16: Chief executive officer charged with certain duties
Section 17: Health and safety representatives
Section 18: Functions of health and safety representatives
Section 19: Health and safety committees
Section 20: Functions of health and safety committees
Section 21: General prohibitions
Section 22: Sale of certain articles prohibited
Section 23: Certain deductions prohibited
Section 24: Report to inspector regarding certain incidents
Section 25: Report to chief inspector regarding occupational disease
Section 26: Victimization forbidden
Section 27: Designation and functions of the chief inspector
Section 28: Designation of inspectors by Minister
Section 29: Functions of inspectors
Section 30: Special powers of inspectors
Section 31: Investigations
Section 32: Formal inquiries
Section 35: Appeal against decision of the inspector
Section 36: Disclosure of information
Section 37: Acts or omissions by employees or mandataries
Section 38: Offences, penalties and special orders of the court
Section 39: Proof of certain facts
Section 40: Exemptions
Section 41: This Act not affected by agreements
Section 42: Delegation and assignment of functions
Section 43: Regulations
Section 44: Incorporation of health and safety standards in regulations
Section 45: Serving of notices
Section 46: Jurisdiction of magistrates’ courts
Section 47: State bound
Section 48: Conflict of provisions
Section 49: Repeal of laws
Section 50: Short title and commencement
The sections of the OHS Act that have been bolded above, are of particular importance and are applicable to our company.
Important things to know: An Occupational Health and Safety act summary
What responsibilities do Employers Have?
Health and Safety Policy statement
The chief inspector may direct certain employers to prepare a written policy concerning the protection of the health and safety of his employees at work. This policy must:
- Describe the organisation
- Convey how the health and safety policy will be carried out and reviewed
- Contain guidelines concerning the contents of the health and safety policy concerned
- Be prominently displayed where the employer’s employees normally report for duty.
Duties of employers to provide a safe working environment
Section 8 Duties of employers, is one of the most important sections of the Act and successful implementation of it will ensure that the company has dealt with and addressed most of its requirements. The responsibility of employers to provide a safe working environment that is without risk to the health and safety of its employees is very clear. This section also encourages employers to evaluate working areas and carry out risk assessments and regular Health and Safety inspections. The employer must evaluate all work, activities and systems of work that could present potential risks for and to the company’s employees. This section also directs employers to provide and establish precautionary measures and systems to prevent workplace injuries. This section also mentions “supervision”. The appointed Health and Safety Supervisor carries out the role of supervision, as well as representing the employer and management at Health and Safety Committee meetings and in an overall Health and Safety capacity.
An important point to make in this Occupational Health and Safety act summary is that employers are responsible for ensuring that all employees clearly understand the potential risks and hazards present in the workplace. OHS act communication is critical and health and safety must be communicated to all employees. This can be achieved through toolbox talks, communication notice boards, newsletters and the company intranet.
If a person is injured or becomes ill, the employer must notify the Department of Labour. If any high-risk hazards present themselves (such as a chemical spill) the employer must report this as well. The Department of Labour will investigate the incidents and hazards and ensure that everyone employers and employees have done their best to abide by the OHS Act and try to prevent the incident from occurring. Where negligence is present, then that person could be held criminally liable for their actions or lack thereof.
What responsibilities do Employees Have
Employees are also responsible for their own health and safety and that they should take reasonable care of those around them as well. Employees are to co-operate with any requirements set out in terms of health and safety, but the employer cannot expect co-operation if working conditions are unsafe. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the employee to obey all lawful instructions or rules that are implemented for the benefit of all employees.
Want to know more about health and safety, beyond this Occupational Health and Safety act summary?
Contact a Health and Safety specialist at Absolute Health Services to expand your knowledge on the OHS act. We will help you with all your OHS needs and ensure your workplace is OSH act compliant.
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About us: Absolute Health Services (AHS) offer tailored Health and Safety Files, conduct company Health and Safety Compliance Assessments as well as detailed Health and Safety Risk Assessments. We offer accredited Health and Safety (H&S) training, ensuring that our clients receive current, professional and quality training. All our training instructors are paramedics registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa and have extensive practical operational experience and have specialised in First Aid, Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), Firefighting and H&S training. Our training courses contain the latest theoretical course content and extensive practical content and scenario training, thereby ensuring both theoretical and practical exposure. Absolute Health Services has a team of Health and Safety graduates and practitioners that are able to assist organisations in implementing a holistic, logical and successful Health and Safety management service within their unique working environment.
If there is a risk or hazard the employer must inform the employees of this risk or hazard and it may not be kept a secret.