Health and safety and the employer

“Are you an employer? If so, do you know what responsibilities you hold for the health and safety of your employees?”

Employers have a fundamental responsibility for the health and safety of their employees and must provide a work environment that is safe and healthy. A variety of legislation, also covers the workplace, the most important of these being the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 (OHASA).

OHASA prescribes the roles and responsibilities of employer and employee and establishes the responsibility for health and safety in the workplace as belonging to both employer and employee, as well as other parties such as manufacturers of equipment, suppliers and even contractors.

Whereas it is the responsibility of an employee to look after their own health and safety, employees may also not compromise the health and safety of others in the workplace. It is also the responsibility of manufacturers or suppliers of equipment to ensure the quality of the equipment and safe operating procedures etc. 

From an employer perspective, OHASA requires employers to have the necessary health and safety policies and procedures in place, including items like health and safety plans and the employers rules and regulations. In this way, the employer must create an environment that is safe and where the necessary rules and procedures have been established within which employees and others can function.

OHASA is premised on the notion that risk in the workplace should be managed through communication and cooperation. Accordingly, it advances active participation between employer and employees, encouraging the joint identification of risks and the establishment of measures to ensure a safe work environment for all. OHASA enforces this by requiring the appointment of health and safety representatives and committees that can consider and make recommendations to the employer.

OHASA does not leave compliance purely to chance, and criminalises non-compliance, fines or even imprisonment for non-compliance by employer or employee. This makes it important for an employer to ensure that it has met all its OHASA obligations and has the necessary policies and procedures in place of which staff are aware and follow. 

Should your organization not have these policies and procedures in place, or for a comprehensive review of your compliance with health and safety legislation, get in touch with our labour and employment advisors to help you get the necessary in place.

Disclaimer: This article is the personal opinion/view of the author(s) and is not necessarily that of the firm. The content is provided for information only and should not be seen as an exact or complete exposition of the law. Accordingly, no reliance should be placed on the content for any reason whatsoever and no action should be taken on the basis thereof unless its application and accuracy has been confirmed by a legal advisor. The firm and author(s) cannot be held liable for any prejudice or damage resulting from action taken on the basis of this content without further written confirmation by the author(s). 

October 20, 2022
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