Occupational Health & Safety

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The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) was instituted in 1994 in South Africa. The OHSA gives workers some rights in health and safety in the workplace. It tells management to set up safety representatives and safety committees in the workplace.

The regulations in the Act give guidelines on things such as toilets, change rooms, first aid, drinking water, washing facilities, protective clothing, machinery, stacking and packing, ladders, fire, ventilation, lighting, temperature, noise and asbestos. Inspectors have wide powers in terms of the Act to make sure that employers and workers follow the Act.


Who does the OHSA cover?

The Act excludes workers in mines and on ships, where other laws apply. The OHSA covers all other workers, including farm workers, domestic workers and state workers.


What are the workers’ duties?

Workers must take reasonable precautions over their own health and safety at work. They must follow any precautions and rules about safety and health. They must report any unsafe circumstances or accidents as soon as possible, to the safety representative. Anyone who acts in a reckless way or damages any safety measures can be charged. Also, if the worker does this damage on purpose, then the employer can claim damages from him/her.


What are the employer’s duties?

The employer must make sure that the workplace is safe and healthy, and must not allow any worker to do work that is potentially dangerous. The worker must know what the dangers of the work are. But it is always the employer who decides what is a threat to workers’ safety.

The general duties of the employer are to:

  • Choose safety representatives

  • Consult with the workers’ organisation about the safety representatives

  • Inform workers of the dangers in the workplace

  • Reduce any dangers to a minimum before issuing protective clothing

  • Issue protective clothing where necessary

  • Give necessary training to workers who use dangerous machines and materials, to make sure they know the safety precautions

  • Prevent workers from using or working with dangerous materials or machines, unless all safety rules have been followed

  • Ensure that dangerous machines are in good working order and are safe to work with

  • Make sure that dangerous machinery carries warnings and notices

  • Make sure that somebody who knows the work is supervising the operations to ensure the safety of workers

  • Keep the workplace open so that workers can escape from danger if necessary

  • Not move any evidence of an accident before an inspector has given permission, unless someone has been badly injured and needs treatment.