Focus on Safety
The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) was instituted in 1994 in South Africa. The OHSA gives workers some rights in health and safety in the workplace. The regulations in the Act give employers guidelines on matters such as first aid, drinking water, washing facilities, protective clothing, machinery, stacking and packing, ladders, fire, ventilation, lighting, temperature, noise and asbestos. Inspectors have wide powers in terms of the Act to make sure that employers and workers follow the Act.
What are the employer’s duties?
The employer must make sure that the workplace is safe and healthy, and must not allow any worker to do work that is potentially dangerous. The worker must know what the dangers of the work are. But it is always the employer who decides what is a threat to workers’ safety.
The general duties of the employer are to:
- Choose safety representatives
- Consult with the workers’ organisation about the safety representatives
- Inform workers of the dangers in the workplace
- Reduce any dangers to a minimum before issuing protective clothing
- Issue protective clothing where necessary
- Give necessary training to workers who use dangerous machines and materials, to make sure they know the safety precautions
- Prevent workers from using or working with dangerous materials or machines, unless all safety rules have been followed
- Ensure that dangerous machines are in good working order and are safe to work with
- Make sure that dangerous machinery carries warnings and notices
- Make sure that somebody who knows the work is supervising the operations to ensure the safety of workers
- Make sure emergency exits are known to workers, so that workers can escape from danger if necessary
- Not move any evidence of an accident before an inspector has given permission, unless someone has been badly injured and needs treatment.
Tough times lie ahead for errant employers
The Department of Labour has promised to step up the gear in its drive to ensure compliance with labour laws vowed to come up with even more stringent fines.
Tibor Szana Director: Occupational Health and Safety in the department said, whilst several employers have paid admission of fines this year, upping the penalty could send an even stronger message.
“The highest fine paid recently is R12 000 with other employers having being forced to fork out lesser amounts in the forestry and agricultural sectors. These resulted from more and more court cases in several provinces following blitz inspections,” he said.
Szana said he was pleased that the department was winning more court cases-attesting to the thoroughness with which labour inspectors executed their job.
He said the department will beef-up its training of inspectors to ensure that case do not fall within the cracks and that “we have airtight cases before going to court”.
Szana said “if we come to a place and we realize there is an immediate danger to life and limb, we will shut up the operations until areas of concern have been corrected”.
Department of Labour
The real cost of workers’ compensation is not always apparent at first glance. It includes things such as:
•Recruiting new staff to replace the injured employee
•Retaining a lawyer
It is projected that compensation benefits amounting to R3,2 billion would be paid by the end of 2011/12 financial year.