What is the Occupational Health and Safety Act?
Employees have the right to occupational health and safety – that is, they can come to work knowing that their health will be protected and that their safety is foremost in their employers’ interests. South Africa’s legislation protects employees with the Occupational Health and Safety Act No. 85 of 1993. The purpose of the act is stated as the following:
- To provide for the health and safety of persons at work and for the health and safety of persons in connection with the use of plant and machinery
- To provide for the protection of persons other than persons at work against hazards to health and safety arising out of or in connection with the activities of persons at work.
- To establish an advisory council for occupational health and safety
- To provide for matters connected with the council and with health and safety.
The Advisory Council
The Occupational Health and Safety Act covers the establishment, function, and constitution of the Advisory Council for Occupational Health and Safety, and also states the period of office as well as the remuneration of the advisory council. The Act also covers the establishment of an occupational health and safety policy in each organisation and explicitly states that this policy should be displayed where employees can see it.
Employers’ Responsibilities to Employees
It’s the employer’s responsibility to provide a working environment that is safe for his employees and does not pose a risk to their health, and to maintain that environment in such a way as to keep it safe. The Act covers all the areas of work that are to be kept safe – from providing the correct Standard Operating Procedures, to maintaining systems of work and machinery that will not threaten the health and safety of employees. The employer is to provide safety gear (where necessary) as well as making available training material to educate employees in protecting their health and safety, and by promoting compliance with the Health and Safety Act.
Employers’ Responsibilities to Others
Employers have a responsibility to everyone else who is not an employee, to protect their health and safety. Suppliers, clients, and visitors to the employer’s premises who may be directly affected by the employer’s activities need to be protected from exposure to occupational hazards.
The Act is not only about the employer keeping employees safe, but also about employees accepting their responsibility in taking reasonable care to maintain their own health and safety, and to co-operate with their employers in complying with this legislation.