Health and Safety

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Tinus Boshoff


People could be seen as one of the most important assets in an organisation. As human beings we are all entitled to a safe and healthy working environment. Legislation in the form of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Act 85 of 1993) was written and passed by parliament to address this matter. The main objective of the OHS Act could be described as proactive attempt by government to provide and maintain a safe and healthy work environment to all. Preventing unnecessary injury, illness and loss makes good management sense any way.


According to the OHS Act the employer must, where reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a safe, healthy work environment that is without risk to employees.

Based on Legislation in section 8, of the Occupational Health and Safety Act


Although the OHS Act largely places the duty for health and safety on the shoulders of management, the workforce are also bound to comply with certain legal prescriptions. For the purpose of this article, we will take a closer look at the basic prescriptions applicable to employees.

It is the duty of every employee at work to take reasonable care for the health and safety for himself as well as other persons. Every worker is in other words responsible to take care of his or her own health and safety. The unsafe acts of the worker may not negatively impact or endanger others. Other persons normally include co-workers, contractors, visitors and even the public.

The employee is also duty bound to co-operate with the employer where the OHS Act imposes a duty or requirement to be performed or complied with. Workers are legally bound to comply with the prescriptions of the OHS Act. Employees should always carry out and obey lawful orders and obey the health and safety rules and procedures laid down by the employer.

Please note that safety rules and procedures of an employer may be more specific towards the employer's own work environment and conditions. Sometimes the internal health and safety policies, rules and procedures of an employer might even be more specific and better than the ones provided by the OHS Act. In cases like these the employee needs to adhere to the employer's prescriptions.

If any unsafe or unhealthy situation is observed by an employee, he or she must report it to the employer or to the health and safety representative of the workplace. Whenever an employee is involved in any incident or observe any unsafe or unhealthy situation, it must be reported to the employer or the health and safety representative.

These incidents need to be reported as soon reasonably practicable, not later than the end of the particular shift. An employee may also give information to an inspector from the Department of Labour when required.

Based on Legislation in section 14, of the Occupational Health and Safety Act


All employees have the right to be informed. The employer should ensure that the employee clearly understands the health and safety hazards of any work being done, anything being produced, processed, used, stored, handled or transported, and any equipment or machinery being used. The employer must then provide information about precautionary measures against these hazards.

Based on Legislation in section 13, of the Occupational Health and Safety Act


All employees have the right to be trained - according to prescription the employer must provide the necessary information, instructions and training to employees.

Based on Legislation in section 8, of the Occupational Health and Safety Act


No employee may intentionally or recklessly interfere with damage or misuse things provided for health or safety; this includes safety equipment and personal protective equipment, firefighting equipment etc..

Based on Legislation in section 15, of the Occupational Health and Safety Act


Employees have the right not to be victimized by the employer. No employer may dismiss an employee from his or her service, reduce an employee's salary or alter or reduce an employee's service position to terms or conditions that is  less favourable to the employee, because:


  • The employee supplied information which is required from him or her in terms of the Act to a person that is charged with the administration of the OHS Act
  • The employee complied with a lawful notice like a contravention notice or a prohibition notice
  • The employees does something that in terms of the Act, should have been done
  • The worker did not perform an action or do something that is prohibited by the Act
  • The worker has given information or evidence before a Labour Court or a Court of Law on matter regarding Health and Safety

Based on Legislation in section 26, of the Occupational Health and Safety Act

An employee that contravenes a section of the OHS Act could be prosecuted. They could receive a fine, penalty and even imprisonment. (Maximum fine of R 50 000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months or both such fine and such imprisonment)

Based on Legislation in section 42, of the Occupational Health and Safety Act


Please note that employee involvement is just as important as management involvement. Health and safety involves all level of the workforce, from the top to the bottom. Employee involvement should be encouraged by management. It is important to establish participation, communication and trust between the various role players in order to create a positive safety culture.

Let us all work together towards a safe and healthy work environment!

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