Occupational Health and Safety in the Workplace is an oft neglected, but necessary function of day to day Business life. One which the Corporate Company, Small to Medium Business Enterprise or Manufacturer ignores at its own peril as well as that of its employees.

The typical business mindset is one of sales, sales and more sales and the general attitude to Occupational Health and Safety becomes that of making money above all else and therefore good Safety "Housekeeping" manners, accident or incident prevention and the continuous upkeep of safety standards tends to fall by the wayside.

Fires, Floods, Electrocution, Slipping on wet flooring, Building construction failure and death or injury by negligence or accident are a reality in our daily  working environments. The financial implications and penalties as well as the social impact of traumatic events occurring in the workplace due to accidents or neglect of the basic laws pertaining to Occupational Health and Safety regulations can be catestrophic. 

The Employer is duty bound by Law to provide a safe working environment for its Employees. The Law provides guidelines in the appointing and training of Safety Representatives, Evacuation Marshals, Fire Fighting, First Aid, Evacuation drills and procedures and Safety Signage required by Law. These Rules and Regulations are not frivolous. They are of the utmost importance.

Employees have a shared responsibility with the Employer in ensuring their own safety, as well as the safety of others in the working environment. They need to be trained adequately in Occupational Health and Safety methods and accident/incident prevention in order to be effective in preventing mishaps in the workshop.

The Occupational Health and Safety training needs to be undertaken by accredited training institutions and trainers and refresher courses conducted periodically as per the requirements set out by the OHASA Laws and Regulations.


Workers ARE responsible for their own safety


By Kevin Allardyce                              

16 August 2010 at 06h00

During the World Cup the spotlight was focused on individual and collective safety.

Newspapers reported on occasions when a stadium or construction site did not comply with international safety regulations, and these were attended to beforekick-off.

Now the soccer is but a fond memory, and the spotlight has been redirected.

What about your workplace? How safe are you?

Section 8 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) says the general duties of an employer to their employees include:

  Every employer shall provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of his employees.

  Taking such steps as may be reasonably practicable to eliminate or mitigate any hazard or potential hazard to the safety or health of employees, before resorting to personal protective equipment (PPE) or clothing (PPC).

  Taking all necessary measures to ensure that the requirements of this act are complied with by every person in his employment or on the premises under his control.

These are employee rights; you can demand to be supplied with PPE and PPC.

But there is a reciprocal obligation as an individual to be responsible foryour own health, safety and wellbeing, as well as that of fellow workers.

Section 14 states that every employee shall:

  Take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other people who may be affected by his acts or omissions.

  Carry out any lawful order given to him, and obey the health and safety rules and procedures laid down by his employer.

  If any situation which is unsafe or unhealthy comes to his attention, he must as soon as practicable report it to his employer or to the health and safety representative.

Obviously, employees cannot expect their employer to take all reasonable steps to eliminate or mitigate risks, for example providing them with personal protective equipment and clothing, without them having some accountability and responsibility for their health and safety.

Employees are required to wear/use protective equipment or clothing wherever necessary and failure to do so may result in disciplinary action by the employer, or in some cases being sent home (eg for failing to wear PPC in the mines), in which case they could be sanctioned to "no work no pay".

It is the employee's obligation to take good care of the personal protective equipment and clothing and the employer will hold them liable for any damage (that exceeds the norm, or that is not fair and reasonable wear and tear) and/or loss of the equipment.

In the event that the PPC/PPE is damaged or lost, employees should report to their employer immediately to ensure that they are issued with a new regulation kit to comply with their legal and contractual obligations at work.

Employees may be expected to pay for the new equipment if the replacement is earlier than the agreed period (unless they prove that it was not gross negligence on their part or that it was fair wear and tear).

The Employees failure to do so may result in their removal from the site, subjection to disciplinary action, having their pay docked, or even more serious consequences such as dismissal.

  Kevin Allardyce is a labour lawyer whofocuses on legislation from the employee's point of view. He can be contacted at 011 694 4060 or at e-mail :- kevin@allardyce.co.za.