Health and Safety [Workplace Guide]
Companies and organizations must confirm their commitment in establishing and maintaining a high level and standard of Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS) compliance. This is achieved through health and safety support from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the management team and broader employee base.
In this comprehensive health and safety guide, we will assist you to learn more about the OHS Act, sections and regulations in the act, employer and employee responsibilities.
This health and safety guide is aimed at assisting you in becoming OHS act compliant in South Africa.
Table of Contents
The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS) 85 of 1993 is the law that seeks to protect the well-being and health and safety of all employees. 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 Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993, has 50 sections (each has rules and requirements) and 22 regulations:
Some are general and apply to everyone and all businesses and industries such as:
- General administration regulations;
- General safety regulation;
- Facilities regulations;
- Environmental regulations for the workplace.
Some are specific and apply to certain and specific industries, such as:
- Asbestos regulations;
- Lead regulations;
- Diving regulations.
One of the principles of the current OHS Act includes “self-regulation”. This means that the employer must decide what will be done to provide and maintain a workplace that is safe and without risk to its employees. When dealing with hazards, the employer must do one or all of the following:
- Eliminate hazards;
- Control hazards;
- Mitigate hazards.
As part of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, an employer must also be “reasonably practicable”. This means that the Department of Labour (DoL) inspectors and employers must be reasonable in their judgement, interpretation and implementation of the Act. This involves determining:
- The realistic scope and severity of a pending hazard;
- The means and methods of implementing or conforming to the Act;
- The cost factors involved.
There are 50 different Sections of the OHS Act and these sections apply to all businesses and industries, listed below are the Sections that are applicable to most industries:
- 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 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 23: Certain deductions prohibited
- Section 24: Report to inspector regarding certain incidents
- Section 26: Victimization forbidden
- Section 35: Appeal against decision of inspector
- Section 37: Acts or omissions by employees or mandataries
- Section 38: Offences, penalties and special orders of court
- Section 41: This Act not affected by agreements
The Chief Executive Officer must ensure that the Occupational Health and Safety Act is adhered to by the company and that the management team assists the CEO in achieving this important compliance objective.
All employees are responsible for ensuring the OHS wellbeing of themselves and their fellow employees and are to co-operate and adhere to the requirements set out in the OHS Act. As per Section 14 – ‘General duties of employees at work” it is the responsibility of every employee to obey all instructions or rules that are implemented in the interest of health and safety.
Lynne Proude, Human Resources Director of MASA Outsourcing, speaks about why being OHS compliant is so vital. She says, “Health and Safety is a critical but often overlooked element of Human Resources.”
As an HR Manager you are the conscience of the business and are responsible to balance the needs and interests of employees with that of the company. Employees spend the majority of their time at work and whilst at work, HR Managers need to ensure that the welfare of their employees is paramount and that legislation is complied with.
Failure to comply has serious consequences for both the business and CEO’s in a personal capacity, because serious incidents and fatalities could result in the CEO’s receiving a fine and spending up to 2 years in prison if found to be negligent and responsible.
It is essential to create a safety first workplace culture and involve everyone, from the shop floor right to the top.
When employees believe they are valued and that they matter their performance automatically increases. A positive workplace culture helps to build a strong Employer brand and it makes it easier to attract and retain top talent.”
AHS – “A positive OHS culture must be established and integrated throughout the company, where management and employees as well as external stakeholders work together through the OHS committee to achieve, improve and create an effective OHS system and culture”.
Andre Robins, ESAR Corporate SHE Manager of Nestlé (South Africa), builds on that by stressing the following:
“There are three main reasons to ensure you are OHS compliant:
- Legal reasons: there is a comprehensive legal framework to which employers must adhere in order to ensure the safety and healthy working environment for their employees, with potential legal consequences for non-compliance.
- There is a business case for health and safety; accidents cost money, time and a host of unexpected business impacts, posing a threat to your bottom line of the longevity of your business.
- Thirdly and most importantly, health and safety compliance is a moral imperative, it’s the right thing to do, and if we keep our employees and their families in mind when implementing our systems, not only will you achieve points one and two; you will develop a productive and loss-free culture where your employees know that you really care about their well-being.”
Robbins further states that, “safety is everybody’s responsibility. You will only achieve a zero injury environment when you have buy-in from all employees which is created through regular shop floor engagements. A good tip is to ensure employees understand WHY we practise safety and set clear expectations linked to accountability to drive individual ownership of the process.”
Responsibilities of the Employer
Why have a Safety Officer in the workplace?
Responsibilities of the Health and Safety Officer
The main purpose for the role of the Health and Safety Officer is to assist the company in implementing the OHS act requirements and ensure compliance with the Act, thereby reducing hazards and risks, preventing accidents and incidents in the workplace and creating a healthy, safe and prepared working environment. Listed below are some points which could be inserted into a Safety Officer’s appointment letter, detailing their responsibility:
- Represent management’s interests and commitment in terms of OHS;
- Ensure that all the offices and company’s OHS structures are in place and up-to-date as per the OHS structure and organogram requirements;
- Provide the necessary OHS information, instructions and supervision, thereby assisting in ensuring the OHS wellbeing of all employees;
- Ensure that you and all the OHS supervisors and representatives attend all the quarterly OHS committee meetings and at these meetings function and represent management and the company as a whole;
- Together with the OHS supervisors and representatives, remain an integral part of the incident and accident investigation team, which reports back to the OHS committee on all investigation results and reports. All incidents and accidents must be investigated immediately and the report generated must provide incident causes and suggested preventative measures, which must be put in place to prevent recurrences;
- Ensure that annual OHS risk assessments are performed through the company and that the findings are recorded and a management plan must be put in place to mitigate or eliminate the high risk and hazards highlighted in the risk assessment;
- Ensure that the OHS representatives complete their quarterly “OHS Representative Inspection Checklist” inspections thoroughly and where priority and urgent concerns are brought to your attention, discuss these with your OHS supervisor/s and management and where it is warranted, act on and try resolve these concerns immediately. Where you do not receive the necessary support from management to resolve urgent priority concerns, immediately escalate this to the CEO or executive management for support to assist in resolving these valid concerns;
- Provide general assistance and support to the, OHS committee chairperson and OHS teams, creating awareness and a prepared, healthy and safe working environment for all employees.
First Aid Regulation 7 box content:
|1||Wound cleaner / antiseptic (100 ml)|
|2||Swabs for cleaning wounds (50)|
|3||Cotton wool for padding (100 g)|
|4||Sterile gauze (minimum quantity 10)|
|5||1 Pair of forceps (for splinters)|
|6||1 Pair of scissors (minimum size 100 mm)|
|7||1 set of safety pins|
|8||4 Triangular bandages|
|9||4 Roller bandages (75 mm x 5 m)|
|10||4 Roller bandages (100 mm x 5 m)|
|11||1 Roll of elastic adhesive (25 mm x 3 m)|
|12||1 Non-allergenic adhesive strip (25 mm x 3 m)|
|13||1 Packet of adhesive dressing strips (minimum quantity, 10 assorted sizes)|
|14||4 First aid dressings (75 mm x 100 mm)|
|15||4 First aid dressings (150 mm x 200 mm)|
|16||2 Straight splints|
|17||2 Pairs large & 2 pairs medium disposable gloves|
|18||2 CPR Mouth pieces or similar devices|
|19||Blood spill kit|