Are you in danger of facing penalties for non-compliance?

Are you in danger of facing penalties?

Understanding and complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Act in South Africa can be like traversing a minefield during a war. Do you know what the penalties for Health and Safety non-compliance are and how severe they can be? Are you aware of the possible consequences, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Act of South Africa, should you be non-compliant?

Non-compliant stamp

At best, most organisations will probably answer with a doubtful yes. This is mostly due to employers getting lost in the smaller details of the OHS Act, leading to a dangerous lack of knowledge by the organisation. Consequently, this is when the Department of Labour comes and issues hefty fines and other penalties to companies for non-compliance. Employers in South Africa have a legal duty to provide and sustain a working environment free of risk to the health and safety of their employees.
Penalties are of varying severity

The penalties that the Department of Labour (DoL) could possibly impose upon employers can range from simple warnings with conditions of rectification attached, to the closure of the premises and/or imprisonment of the owners. It is important to know that where non-compliance leads to injury or a casualty, the employer could be held liable.
Therefore, it is the prerogative of both employee and employer to have knowledge about the possible infractions of the OHS Act to avoid being issued with unnecessary penalties by the Department of Labour, as well as possible injury or death in the workplace. All these can lead to loss of production due to avoidable offences.

According to Section 38 of the OHS Act, the following actions can lead to possible penalties due to non-compliance:

  • Non-compliance with the provisions of sections 7 up to section 36 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act
  • Purposely providing false and misleading information to the department
  • Obstructing or hindering an inspector from performing their duties
  • Refusing or failing to comply with the requests and requirements made by a DoL inspector
  • Refusing or failing to answer any questions asked by the inspector
  • Threatening, discouraging, deceiving or influencing any person in any way with regards to evidence to be given before the inspector
  • Influencing, prejudicing or anticipating the proceedings or findings of an inquiry under section 32 or 33 of the OHS Act
  • Failing to use any protective safety equipment in the workplace or with the use of plant equipment or machinery, in the course of their employment
  • Tampering with or misusing any safety equipment installed or provided to any person
  • Wilfully or recklessly do anything at a workplace, or in connection with the use of plant equipment or machinery, which threatens the health and safety of any person
  • In addition to the above infractions, the following also contribute to Occupational Health and Safety non-compliance penalties
Refusing to:

  • appear before an inspector
  • be sworn or to make affirmation as a witness after being directed to do so
  • answer or fail to answer to the best of your knowledge and belief, any question posted to you
  • comply with a requirement to produce a book, document or anything specified in the subpoena or which you are in possession of.
Contravening any of the above can lead to an individual and/or the organisation being penalised severely by the Department of Labour, with pretty hefty fines or even jail time. In addition to the penalties for non-compliance imposed by the Department of Labour, an organisation can suffer in other ways as well. Some such consequences include the damage of the company’s reputation, possibly leading to reduced success due to the distrust that non-compliance propagates with current clients as well potential customers. The loss of lucrative opportunities may also occur as government and many private organisations require compliance with stringent regulations, such as those presented in the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Therefore, it is easier as well as cheaper to be Health and Safety compliant than to take a chance with non-compliance and be slapped with penalties that could have been avoided altogether.

Posted date: 17th Jul 2018
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