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A brief summary of the OHS (Occupational Health and Safety) act that small businesses should know

safety in the workplace

People can be considered as the most important assets of an organization. This is because people handle most of the actual production that takes place in organizations. It is therefore imperative that people’s safety in the workplace should be a number one priority as a matter of fact people in the workplace are entitled to a safe and healthy environment. In efforts to address this matter, legislation in the form of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Act 85 of 1993) was written and passed by parliament. This Act is a law that seeks to protect the well-being of employees. 

The purpose of the OHS Act 

The purpose of the OHS Act is to make providence for health and safety of persons at work and in connection with the use of machinery and other production tools and equipment. It further provides for the protection of people other than people at work from hazards arising out of or in connection with the activities from people at work. The main aim of the Act could be described as a pro-active effort by government to prevent and avoid work related injuries and illness as much as possible. It seeks to provide healthy working environments as well as maintaining employees’ working ability and functioning capacity. The Act governs the health and safety of the diverse working industry of South Africa. It is responsible for regulating and controlling health and safety in all organizations, from a normal office environment to more hazardous environments like industrial plants and construction sites. The Occupational Health and Safety act summary is for the benefit of all employees and members of management in all workplaces. The documented act is quite lengthy and may be difficult to fully understand. However, it is imperative for employees and especially management to understand the act.  

Both employees and employers have a responsibility when it comes to adhering to the act. Below are the responsibilities of both employers and employees regarding the act. 

Responsibilities of the employer 

Section 8 of the act focuses on the duties of the employers and is one of the most important sections of the act. If employers adhere to this section, they are likely to be compliant with the act in its entirety. Employers have the responsibility of firstly preparing a written document which must describe the organization and how the policy will be managed and carried out. Guidelines regarding the health and safety policy should also be documented. This document should be displayed where employees can easily see it when they report for duty. According to Section 8, employers are encouraged to carry out risk assessments and evaluate working areas, work, systems, and activities that could pose potential risks to the employees. Employers must set up precautionary systems and measures to prevent workplace injuries.  

A health and safety supervisor must be appointed to represent the employer and management at Health and Safety Committee meetings. Some companies hire an onsite occupational health and safety nurse, while others refer employees to occupational health clinics. It is the responsibility of employers to inform employees about potential risks and hazards that exist in the workplace and to ensure that these are fully understood. This communication can be done in the form of notice boards, the company intranet, newsletters, and toolbox talks. Employers must also report incidents – The employer must notify the Department of Labor if an employee becomes ill or is injured on duty, or if there is a high-risk hazard, such as a chemical spill.  

Responsibilities of the employee 

Section 14 focuses on the responsibility of the employees in the workplace. Primarily, it is the duty of every employee at work to take care of their own health and safety as well as that of others whom they work with. They should always steer clear from activities that could be harmful to themselves and co-workers. Employees are therefore expected to co-operate with the health and safety guidelines set out by the employer and to always make sure they adhere to these. Important to note is that these guidelines and safety rules may be specific to workplaces and the conditions of a workplace. Employees are also legally bound to comply with the recommendations of the OHS Act.  

 Whenever an employee is involved in any incident or observe any unsafe or unhealthy situation, it must be reported to the employer or the health and safety representative as soon as possible preferably before the end of that shift. 
For more information about the Occupational Health and Safety Act you are more thank welcome to contact Chamberlink. You are also welcome to use this opportunity to book your seats for our monthly scheduled training  010 040 8328 

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