The Occupational Health and Safety Act is crucial for keeping every South African employee safe. Without this piece of legislation, there would be no legal protection against the workplace becoming a dangerous place! Here is an overview of the OHS Act, and why it is so important for employers, employees, and people working in OHS or studying towards an OHS career.
What is the OHS Act?
According to its opening paragraph, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1993, was designed 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.
- 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.
- Establish an advisory council for occupational health and safety; and to provide for matters connected therewith.
The Act therefore seeks to protect a company’s workers during their day-to-day job activities, as well as to protect people who aren’t employed by the company but who could be affected by the company’s activities – such as customers or visitors to the workplace. Employers must ensure that – working in conjunction with the health and safety committee – these parties are protected against and informed of any potentially hazardous substances and equipment in the workplace.
The Act demands that every company with more than 20 employees has to have a health and safety committee, which could be tasked with identifying potential hazards, examining the causes of any workplace incidents, investigating employee complaints and consulting with health and safety inspectors.
The Act also dictates that every employee needs to take reasonable care to protect the safety of themselves and others who may be affected by their work activities, and needs to report any situations which may be unsafe or unhealthy.
Why does the OHS Act matter?
The OHS Act ensures that our country maintains a safe, healthy and productive labour market. The Act has an impact on everyone from employers to employees and OHS professionals, so here’s a look at why it should matter for each of these groups:
- You have a responsibility to protect the welfare of your employees; they (and their families) depend on you to keep them safe at work.
- The productivity of your company depends on a safe and healthy work environment.
- Not complying with the Act could result in massive damage to your and your company’s reputation.
- If you fail to adhere to the Act, you face the possibility of failing health and safety inspections, which could result in a temporary closure of your business. If you continue to contravene, you could be permanently closed down.
- If an injury occurs to someone at your workplace and it is found that it was due to you contravening the Act, you will face a hefty fine or imprisonment.
- The Act is there to protect you, and gives you the power to stand up for your right to be safe at work.
- By knowing the conditions of the Act, you are able to identify any potential hazards or safety contraventions in the workplace.
- As an employee, you have to do your part in ensuring that safe working conditions are maintained.
- You could also face fines or imprisonment if an injury occurs in the workplace and you were found to be responsible for it.
For OHS students and professionals
- The OHS Act will be central to everything you do as an OHS student or working professional.
- As an OHS professional, you need a thorough understanding of the Act, as your job is to uphold the regulations contained within it.
- By learning about the OHS Act, you have a strong foundation to prepare you for your studies and your career.
Ready to act on your dreams of becoming an OHS professional? Start with a distance learning OHS course from Oxbridge Academy!