The Occupational Health and Safety Act, 85 of 1993, requires the employer to bring about and maintain 'as far as reasonably practicable', a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of the employees.
The act is based on the principle that dangers in the workplace must be addressed by communication and cooperation between the employee and employer, both sharing the responsibilities for health and safety in the workplace.
Many employers are not aware that they are not fully compliant with South African Legislation.
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The Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 (OHSA) makes it obligatory for the employer to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of the workers.
It is obligatory for an employer to provide and maintain plants and systems and procedures of work that are safe and without risk to workers' health. The employer must ensure safety and absence of risks to health in connection with the production, processing, use, handling, storage and transport of articles and substances.
Provision of such information, instruction, training and supervision of workers is very crucial to maintain a safe and healthy workplace. Precautionary measures should be taken to eliminate or mitigate any hazards or potential hazards threatening the safety and health of workers.
Preventive and protective measures should be taken after proper risk assessment (at least once a year) to ensure that all chemicals, machinery, equipment, tools and processes are safe and without risk to health, and that they comply with the requirements of safety and health provisions in this Act.
A worker must take care of the health and safety of himself/herself and of others who may be affected by his/her acts or omissions. Workers must use safety equipment with care and act according to prescribed instructions to preserve their health and protect them from getting injured. Workers must avoid any action that tends to obstruct implementation of the instructions or the misuse or causing of damage or loss to the means provided for the protection, safety and health of other workers. He/she must report to the employer or health and safety representative concerning any unhealthy or unsafe situation.
An employer may not permit workers to work unless all precautionary measures to protect the health and safety of all workers have been taken.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) requires employers to provide free protective equipment (PPE) to workers involved in hazardous work.
OHSA requires employers to take such steps, which will mitigate any potential hazard to the health and safety of workers before resorting to personal protective equipment. Employers are required to provide protective equipment free of cost to the workers and cannot make any deduction from any employee's remuneration or require or permit any employee to make any payment to him or any other person for provision of such equipment.
The OHSA provides for a vibrant labour inspection system and is quite in line with the requirements of ILO Convention 081, although South Africa has not ratified the Convention. The Department of Labour is mainly responsible for labour and employment issues. It is divided into 4 branches, which are further divided into different Directorates. The Directorate of Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES) is responsible for ensuring compliance with legislation, protecting vulnerable workers, and promoting equity and skills development in the workplace. The Office of the Inspector General comprises three teams, Occupational Safety and Health, Minimum Labour Conditions, and Employment Equity, each of which is responsible for labour inspection matters within its jurisdiction. Labour inspectors are empowered to issue compliance orders against employers who do not comply with the law. Compliance orders that are not obeyed can be made into and enforced as orders of the Labour Court. Financial penalties may be imposed on employers who do not comply with these obligations. A labour inspector may, in writing, prohibit an employer from continuing or commencing with an act which in the opinion of an inspector threatens or is likely to threaten the health or safety of any person. The national legislation provides inspectors the power to enter the work premises at any reasonable time without prior notice; interview anyone; ask for a book, record or other documents to examine and ask for their explanation; inspect any article, substance, plant or machinery; and to take a sample for examination or analysis. If an occupier or his representatives do not facilitate the inspector and obstruct the execution of his duties, he/she commits an offence and is liable to a fine up to R50,000 or to imprisonment up to one year or to both.
Occupational Health & Safety Act, 85 of 1993