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A focus on Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA)

Bbeee New

In previous weeks we looked at compliance in general and integrated systems and explored the reasons why an organisation needs to ensure operational compliance. Today we are discussing occupational-related legislation which forms part of operational compliance.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) cannot be applied in isolation and must be viewed in conjunction with the Department of Employment and Labour directives, the local authorities’ directives, and the numerous SANS codes issued as part of the regulations of the OHSA.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was established in 1971. Since then, OSHA and our state partners, coupled with the efforts of employers, safety and health professionals, unions, and advocates, have had a dramatic effect on workplace health and safety. The OHSA includes 22 regulations and future changes are still expected.

The focus of the OHSA is to protect employers, employees, and the public who may be affected by an organisation’s daily operations and services. The OHSA is dedicated to reducing the probability of adverse events that could result in injuries, illnesses, or material losses that will directly affect not only the health of the employee, but the socio-economic circumstances and future of his or her dependents and immediate community.

The Covid-19 pandemic made us focus on Occupational Health. Occupational Health is the specialty of medicine, dealing with the interaction between the work and health. This includes: the exposure to substances, processes at work, or circumstances that may affect a person’s health or safety at the place of work.

Even though the OHSA is self-regulatory, the Department of Employment and Labour do have inspectors who may inspect an organisation at any time:

-1st visit notice will be given if the employer does not comply

-2nd visit if NO action has taken place then the inspector will recommend immediate prosecution.

-An administrative audit could be conducted at the same time

The Department of Employment and Labour have employed a further 500 occupational health and safety (OHS) inspectors, in an attempt to regulate the health and safety in the workplace. Additional inspectors have been employed to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic and focus only on health aspect at this current moment in time. The scope of these inspectors will most probably expand to include the full OHSA shortly.

OHSA Offenses & Penalties have been increased but not implemented as yet. Currently, depending on the offense, the 16(1) and 16(2) (Top management) is held personally liable of up to R100 000 per offence and/or 2 years in prison.

The Employment and Labour Minister, Thulas Nxesi,  has a Vision Zero which means no harm to any worker and he and his team is set to achieve this vision and have placed a duty of care on the citizens of South Africa.

What is your business OHSA compliance status and how exposed are you today?

The below questionnaire will assist you in ascertaining just how compliant your business currently is.

BasicsCompliant Yes / No
Risk Assessment – includes Safety and Health risks
Controls identified using the hierarchy of controls principle for all hazards and risks assessed
Controls implemented at all levels and records available
Appointments signed
Employees inducted
Employees trained
Employees medically fit for duty
PPE registers
SHE committee established (> 20 employees)
SHE rep trained competent and use inspections
The incident procedure, investigator and registers available
The emergency procedure with escape routes visible and implemented
First aid box complaint with correct items provided
First aider trained
Fire equipment in valid working condition
Firefighter trained
Equipment maintained
Equipment inspected (ladders, portable electrical, lifting, vehicles)
Applicable signage fitted on site