Health and Safety Legislation.

Health and Safety Legislation

Health and Safety Legislation

The purpose of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 is to protect the safety and health of employees. This ensures that employers are now responsible for providing and maintaining a work environment that is safe and without health hazards to employees as far as it is possible for them to do.  This act also gives power to health and safety representatives and committees to investigate and monitor working conditions. The act applies to the company, its CEO and any other person employed by a company. Previously, only the company itself was charged in case of an accident.

The Act also brought in another new concept, separating health from safety.

  •         Health: Refers to a disease that gradually develops because of occupational causes
  •         Safety: Refers to injuries sustained as a result of danger in the workplace. Any

         exposure to a health risk is seen as a hazard.

The law also states that responsible persons within the workplace need to:

  •         Assign health and safety duties
  •         Manage health and safety programs
  •         Assure that all persons involved should take ownership and responsibility for their own health and safety matters, as well as the health and safety of those around them.

The OHS Act is a self-regulatory act, this means that it is both the duty of employers and employees to take responsibility for their own health and safety. The law also requires both parties to ensure that all procedures and policies are enforced. The best method for achieving this is health and safety committees and representatives.

Section 8: General duties of the employer to their employees

Every employer shall, as far as reasonably practicable:

  1.       Provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health and safety of his employees.
  1.       Provide and maintain systems of work, plant and machinery that are safe and without risks to health.
  1.       Take steps to eliminate or mitigate any hazard or potential hazard to the safety or health of employees, before resorting to PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
  1.       Ensure the safety and absence of risks to health in connection with the production, processing, use, handling, storage or transport of articles or substances.
  1.       Establish what hazards to the health or safety of persons are attached to any work which is performed, or any article or substance which is produced, processed, used, handled, stored or transported.
  1.       Provide such information, instructions, training and supervision as may be necessary  to ensure the health and safety at work of his employees.
  1.       Not permit any employee to do any work or to produce, process, use, handle, store or transport any article or substance, or to operate any plant or machinery, unless the prescribed precautionary measures have been taken.
  1.       Ensure that every person in his employment or on premises under his control comply with the requirements of the OHS Act.
  1.       Enforce such measures as may be necessary in the interest of health and safety.
  1.     Ensure that work is performed and plant or machinery is used under the general supervision of a person trained to understand the hazards associated with it and who has the authority to ensure the employer’s precautionary measures are implemented.
  1.     Cause all employees to be informed of the scope of the authority in terms of section 37(1)(b)

Section 13: Every employer also has the duty to inform.

Every employer shall, as far as reasonably practicable:

  1.       Cause every employee to be made conversant with the hazards to his health and safety attached to any work which he has to perform.
  1.       Cause every employee to be made conversant with the precautionary measures to be taken and observed with respect to those hazards.
  1.       Inform health and safety representatives beforehand of :
  •         Inspections
  •         Investigations
  •         Formal inquiries, of which he has been notified by an inspector
  •         Any application for exemption made by him in terms of Section 40

  1.       Inform health and safety representatives of the occurrence of an incident in their respective workplaces.

The responsibility doesn’t only fall on employers. Employees also have duties and responsibilities to keep themselves and their fellow employees out of harm’s way.

Section 14: General duties of employees at work:

Every employee shall at work:

  1.       Take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions.
  1.       Co-operate with the employer and other persons to enable them to carry out any duty  imposed on them by the act.
  1.       Carry out any lawful order given to him, and obey all health and safety rules and procedures laid down by his employer or anyone authorized by his employer, in the interest of health and safety.
  1.       Report any unsafe or unhealthy situation as soon as practicable to the employer or a health and safety representative, who shall then report it to the employer.
  1.       Report any incident which may affect his health or has caused an injury to himself, to his employer or his health and safety representative not later than the end of his  particular shift during which the incident occurred.

Appointing a health and safety representative is one of the best ways to keep control over the health and safety within a workplace. Health and safety representatives are workers elected or selected to represent the health and safety interests of workers within their workgroup for a person conducting a business or undertaking.

Section 18: Functions of Health and Safety Representatives

  1.       A health and safety representative may:
  •         Review the effectiveness of health and safety measures.
  •         Identify potential hazards and potential major incidents at the workplace.
  •         Examine, in collaboration with his employer, the cause of incidents at the  Workplace.
  •         Investigate complaints by an employee relating to that employee’s health and  safety at work.
  •         Make representations to the employer or a health and safety committee on  matters arising out of the aforesaid and, where this has been unsuccessful, to the inspector.
  •         Make representations to the employer on general matters affecting the health and safety of the employees at the workplace.
  •         Inspect the workplace, including any article, substance, plant, machinery and  health and safety equipment at the workplace with a view to the health and safety of employees. These inspections will be carried out at regular intervals as may be agreed upon with the employer. The health and safety representative shall however give reasonable notice of his intention to carry out such inspections to the employer who may be present during the Inspections.
  •         Participate in consultations with inspectors at the workplace and accompany inspectors on inspections in the workplace.
  •         Receive information from inspectors relating to section 36 (Disclosure of information)
  •         Attend meetings of all the health and safety committee of which he is a member, in connection with any of the above functions.

  1.       A health and safety representative shall be entitled to:
  •         Visit the site of an incident and attend any inspection.
  •         Attend any investigations or formal inquiry held in terms of this Act.
  •         In so far as it is reasonably necessary for performing his functions, inspect any document which the employer is required to keep in terms of the act.
  •         Accompany an inspector on any inspection.
  •         With the approval of the employer (which shall not be unreasonably withheld), be accompanied by a technical advisor on any inspection.
  •         Participate in any internal health and safety audit.
  1.       The employer shall provide:

  •         Such facilities
  •         Assistance, training and education as a health and safety representative may reasonably require and as have been agreed upon for the carrying out of the health and safety representatives functions.

Full consultation with a health and safety committee on all aspects of the health and safety programme is very important. All matters referred to the committee from either the employees or the health and safety representatives must be dealt with in a sufficient and formal manner. Health and safety committee meetings should be held every 3 months but may be held more frequently should health and safety be of concern in the workplace.

Section 20: Functions of Health and Safety committees

The health and safety committee:

  •         May make recommendations to the employer regarding any matter affecting the health and safety of persons at the workplace.
  •         May, where the recommendations fail, report to an inspector.
  •         Shall discuss any incident at the workplace or section thereof in which any person was injured, became ill or died.
  •         May in writing report on the above incident to the inspector.
  •         Shall perform such other functions as may be prescribed
  •         Shall keep record of each recommendation made to an employer and of any report made to an inspector.
  •         Or a member thereof shall not incur any civil liability for any act or omission in terms of  the Act.

Health and safety is the responsibility of everyone in the workplace. Having the correct documentation, procedures and plans in place will prevent workplace incidents, accidents and fatalities, saving your company time and money.

Posted date: 22nd Mar 2018
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