The Occupational Health and Safety Act (Act 85 of 1993 as amended) is a South African statutory law and has been the guiding legislation for Occupational Health and Safety compliance within the workplace since 1993. The Act seeks to produce the legal compliance requirements from both the employer and employee viewpoints.
The main purpose of this Act is to ensure the health and safety of employees at work. It aims to protect individuals in the workplace from hazards arising in connection with work-related activities. The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS Act) can be seen as a proactive measure taken by leaders to prevent and avoid work-related illnesses and injuries.
What is the OHS Act in South Africa?
The OHS Act administers the health and safety of the diverse industries of South Africa. It regulates and controls health and safety in all organisations, from a traditional office environment to more hazardous environments like construction sites and industrial plants.
What are OHS Act regulations?
The Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1993 requires, as far as reasonably practicable, the employer to bring about and maintain a work environment that is safe and without risk for the health of employees.
The following should be noted when applying the OHS Act in your organisation: Mines, or mining areas, ships, fishing boats, and floating cranes are the areas that are not governed by the OHS Act and fall outside its scope.
Duties of employers to provide a safe working environment.
The duties of employers (contained in Section 8) is one of the most important sections of the Act and successful application of it will ensure that the organisation deals with and address most of its requirements. The responsibility of an employer is to provide a safe working environment that is without risk to the health and safety of its employees. Section 8 also encourages employers to evaluate work areas and carry out risk assessments and regular health and safety inspections.
The employer must notify the Department of Labour should a person be injured or become ill. If any high-risk hazards present themselves (i.e., a chemical spill) the employer must report this as well. The Department of Labour will investigate the incidents or hazards and ensure that all employers and employees have done their best to abide by the OHS Act and while trying to prevent the incident from re-occurring. Should negligence be present, the employer or employee could be held criminally liable for their actions or lack thereof.
The OHS Act is enforced by the Department of Labour, whose inspectors may at any time:
- Enter any workplace without prior notice.
- Request any documentation.
- Inspect any condition, process, plant, or article.
- Take samples or seize any object.
- Question or summon any person within the workplace.
The Department initiated the process to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act (No. 85 of 1993) back in 2016. The reasoning behind this action was to respond to the changes inherent in modern working environments, which were posing greater risks to workers, and to align to international trends.
According to an article by the South African Government News Agency (sanews.gov.za, 2021):
“Cabinet has called on the public to comment on the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Bill 2020 after it was approved for consultation this week. The bill seeks to amend the OHS Act, 1993 (Act 85 of 1993) and align it to international trends. It also seeks to strengthen the safety measures of workers in their respective workplaces. During a post-Cabinet briefing, acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, said Cabinet approved the bill during its meeting on Wednesday (10 March 2021). The bill introduces provisions that empower employees to withhold their labour, should they feel the environment is dangerous and unsafe, without being victimised by their employers.”
Even though the Occupational Health and Safety Bill (2020) will not be an entirely new Act and only amends the existing OHS Act, there will be significant changes that will affect all employers and their organisation. The amendment of the OHS legislation further seeks to deal with the constant increase in gaps between the formal sector, small-medium, and micro-enterprises, and informal sector – in terms of compliance.
To assist you and your organisation with Occupational Health and Safety Training to ensure compliance for your organisation contact WWISE today on 0861 099 473 or (021) 525 9159