Health and Safety

Tinus Boshoff


Employers are obligated to ensure that work is performed and machinery is used under the general supervision of a competent person (manager, supervisor; foreman etc). Section 8 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Act 85 of 1993) prescribes the ''General duties of employers to their employees''. Section 8(1) clearly stipulates that the employer is obligated to provide and maintain a workplace that is safe and without risk to the health of their employees.


Section 16 of the same act deals with the proper delegation of health and safety duties. The legislator starts with the person ''who is responsible for the overall management and control'' of the business or body corporate, the Chief Executive Officer or Managing Director. We refer to this appointment as the section 16(1) appointee. The Chief Executive Officer or Managing Director of the organisation is the person that is responsible to assign health and safety duties to the rest of management under his or her control.


Evidently it would be an impossible task for the CEO to be present and to manage over each and every work task or activity. They need assistance; section 16(2) makes provision for the delegation of responsibilities. The CEO or MD should delegate health and safety responsibilities to senior management like directors or head of departments. These assistants are referred to as the section 16(2) appointees of the organisation. Responsibility may be defined as an individual's obligation to carry out assigned duties.


Please follow the following link for an example of a Section 16(2) appointment letter:


Another significant legal appointment that we need to look at is the appointment of competent supervisors for the workplace. Section 8(2)(i) stipulates that the employer is obligated to ensure that work is performed and that plant or machinery is used under general supervision.


Please follow the following link for an example of a Section 16(2) appointment letter:


Supervisors must be appointed with the authority to ensure that precautionary measures taken by the employer are implemented and carried out at the workplace. Authority implies the right to make decisions and the power to direct others. Responsibility and authority can even be delegated to subordinates, giving them the right to act on behalf of superiors. It is important to note that, while some responsibilities can be delegated, the superior remains accountable for seeing that they are carried out.


The supervisor is responsible to enforce the necessary control measures, necessary in the interest of health and safety. Please note that the health and safety duties of the employer automatically becomes a ''management responsibility'', pertaining to all levels of management, including supervisions. In fact, health and safety should be given the same priority as productivity or quality control.


The normal health and safety responsibilities of managers or first-line supervisors include: 

  • Instructing workers to follow safe work practices
  • Enforcing health and safety regulations
  • Correcting unsafe acts and unsafe conditions
  • Continues risk assessment
  • Ensuring that only authorized, adequately trained workers operate equipment
  • Reporting and investigating all accidents/ incidents
  • Inspecting own area and taking remedial action to minimize or eliminate hazards
  • Job observations
  • Ensuring equipment is properly maintained
  • Promoting safety awareness in workers
  • On the job training
  • Toolbox talks
  • Managing contractors or other persons at the workplace 


It is important to remember that the CEO or MD remains responsible to direct and control (manage) these duties. Sub-section 8(2)(i) also stipulate that supervisors must be trained to understand the hazards associated with the work that is performed and machinery that is used. Especially, where significant risk exists, supervisors and employees should receive appropriate health and safety training. While keeping these persons competence in mind, it is the employer's duty to ensure that individuals are properly empowered to perform their duties in a safe and healthy manner. Education, training and motivation largely contribute to the success of any safety programme.


For more information contact Tinus Boshoff


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