The Occupational Health and Safety Act gives workers the right to a healthy and safe work environment. It tells management to set up safety representatives and safety committees in the workplace. It also regulates things like toilets, change rooms, first aid, drinking water, washing facilities, protective clothing, machinery, stacking and packing, ladders, fire, ventilation, lighting, temperature, noise and asbestos.
- The right to information - for example, the health and safety hazards in the workplace and the health and safety rules and procedures.
- The right to participate in inspections
- The right to comment on legislation and make representations
- The right not to be victimised - for example, the worker can't be dismissed because they participated in a workplace inspection or reported an accident.
The Act also sets out the responsibilities of workers and employers.
The worker must:
- take care of their own health and safety
- prevent harm to other persons
- cooperate with the employer around improving health and safety
- give information to a Labour Inspector
- wear safety clothing or use safety equipment where it's required
- report unsafe or unhealthy conditions to the employer or health and safety representative as soon as possible
- report an accident to the employer and the health and safety representative as soon as possible
- not to interfere with safety equipment
The employer's duties
The employer must make sure that the workplace is safe and healthy and mustn't allow any worker to do work which is potentially dangerous.
Information and training about dangers. Employers must:
- Inform workers of the dangers in the workplace.
- Ensure that there are warnings and notices on dangerous machinery.
- Train workers on how to use dangerous machinery or substances safely.
Reducing dangers in the workplace. Employers must
- Ensure that equipment is properly maintained.
- Provide protective clothing and equipment where necessary.
- Reduce any dangers to a minimum before issuing protective clothing.
- Make sure that a supervisor oversees operations and enforces safety requirements.
- Set out precautionary measures to prevent dangers.
Health and safety representatives. Employers must:
- Choose safety representatives (1 for every 20 workers).
- Explain the responsibilities of the safety representatives.
- Create a safety committee if there are more than 3 safety representatives. This committee must meet at least every 3 months and deal with all safety and health issues that affect workers.
Procedures for dealing with accidents. Employers must:
- Make sure that workers can escape from danger if necessary.
Reporting accidents or incidents. Employers must:
- Keep a report of all accidents, safety or health incidents in the workplace.
- Report certain types of accidents or incidents to the safety representative and to the Department of Labour.
The following workplace accidents must be reported within 7 days:
- any injury that gives rise to medical expenses
- any injury that results in the worker being absent from work for more than 3 days.
It's a crime not to report these kinds of accidents.
To report an occupational injury the employer needs to fill in Part A of form W.CI.2.
Part B of the form needs to be completed by the doctor or hospital treating the worker.
The employer needs to send Part A of the form to:
PO Box 955, Pretoria, 0001
Labour inspectors ensure that employers and workers perform their duties. Labour inspectors can visit the workplace and ask questions to find out if the environment is safe and healthy.
If the employer hasn't met their responsibilities, the inspector can issue a fine,
If a worker is hurt at work as a result of the employer not following a safety regulation, then that employer can be fined up to R100 000 and /or imprisoned for 2 years.
Health workers' duties to report unsafe work conditions
If a medical practitioner examines or treats someone for a disease that they think resulted from the worker's employment, the medical practitioner must report the case to the worker's employer and to the Department of Labour.