Health and Safety

Tinus Boshoff

 

We previously reported that the Department of Labour are increasingly visiting construction sites or workplaces. Because of the high-level of risk associated with the industry, construction remains one of South Africa's most dangerous workplaces. A very high level of occupational fatalities and injuries frequently occur in this industry.

 

More than 1 000 workplaces were visited and inspected by inspectors from Department of Labour during July 2009. The so called blitz inspections were conducted in all provinces over a five-day period. Findings by the Department indicated an unacceptably high level of non compliance with both the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

 

Prohibition notices were issued by inspectors in some of these cases. According to the Department, these findings may lead to intensified and tighter law enforcement in the near future. During the second week in August inspectors will also be visiting employers who were served with contravention notices in the agricultural and iron and steel industries a few weeks ago.

 

Chief Inspector Thobile Lamati said the focus would be on ensuring compliance with health and safety regulations, although other areas of non-compliance with other labour laws will also be checked. Lamati said "It is the Minister's position that workers are sacrosanct and that employers should not sacrifice workers' lives for profit". He said the department would stop at nothing to ensure "safe and healthy workplaces in South Africa."

 

But what are the rights and powers of inspectors relating to these visits?

 

Access to premises

 

No person may refuse an inspector entry into his or her premises to perform his or her functions unless that person is authorized to do so by any other law.  An inspector or his or her assistant may require an employer or user to make a person available who has full knowledge of the hazards associated with the activities of the workplace to accompany him or her during the entire visit of the workplace.(Based on Legislation in GAR 2, of the Occupational Health and Safety Act)


An inspector may also without previous notice, at all reasonable times, enter any premises which are occupied or used by an employer or on or in which an employee performs any work or any plant or machinery is used, or which he suspects to be such premises.(Based on Legislation in section 29(a), of the Occupational Health and Safety Act)

 

Request of information

 

An inspector may question any person who is or was on or in such premises, either alone or in the presence of any other person.(Based on Legislation in section 29(b), of the Occupational Health and Safety Act)

 

Samples, books, records and other official documentation

 

An inspector may request the employer to hand over any book, record or other document or examine any such book, record or other document or make a copy thereof. He may also require from such a person an explanation of any entry in such book, record or other document;(Based on Legislation in section 29(c)(d)(e), of the Occupational Health and Safety Act)

 

Issue of notices

 

 If an inspector finds dangerous or adverse conditions at the workplace, he or she may set requirements to the employer in the following ways:

Improvement notice:

 

Where the health and safety measures which the employer has instituted, do not satisfactorily protect the health and safety of the workers, the inspector may require the employer to bring about more effective measures. An improvement notice which prescribes the corrective measures is then served on the employer.

 

Contravention notice:

 

If a provision of a regulation is contravened, the inspector may serve a contravention notice on the workers or the employer. A contravention of the Act can result in immediate prosecution, but in the case of a contravention of a regulation, the employer may be given the opportunity to correct the contravention within a time limit specified in the notice which is usually 60 days.

 

Prohibition notice:

 

In the case of threatening danger, an inspector may prohibit a particular action, process, or the use of a machine or equipment, by means of a prohibition notice. No person may disregard the contents of such a notice and compliance must take place with immediate effect.

 

For further information, contact Tinus Boshoff on

or 083 659 2840

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