Compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA)
In the previous blogs we have looked at compliance in general and integrated systems and the reasons why an organization needs to ensure operational compliance. Today I want to discuss occupational related legislation which forms part of the operational compliance.
The OHSA cannot be seen in isolation and must be viewed in conjunction with the Department of Employment and Labour directives, the local authorities’ directives and the numerous SANS codes issued as part of the regulations of the OHSA.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was established in 1971. Since then, OSHA and our state partners, coupled with the efforts of employers, safety and health professionals, unions and advocates, have had a dramatic effect on workplace health and safety. The OHSA includes 22 regulations and future changes are expected.
The focus of the OHSA is to protect employers, employees and the public which may be affected by an organization’s daily operations and services. OHSA is dedicated to reducing the probability of adverse events, that could result in injuries, illnesses or material losses and will directly affect not only the health of the employee, but the socio-economic circumstances and future of his or her dependents and immediate community.
With COVID-19 we have focused on Occupational Health. Occupational Health is the speciality of medicine, dealing with the interaction between the work and health, which includes: the exposure to substances, processes at work, or circumstances that may affect a person’s health or safety at the place of work.
Even though the OHSA is self-regulatory, the Department of Employment and Labour do have inspectors who may inspect an organization at any time:
1st visit notice will be given if the employer does not comply.
2nd visit if NO action has taken place, then the inspector will recommend immediate prosecution.
An administrative audit could be conducted at the same time.
The Department of Employment and Labour have employed a further 500 occupational health and safety (OHS) inspectors, in an attempt to regulate the health and safety in the workplace. Additional inspectors have been employed to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic and focus only on the health aspect at this current moment in time. These inspectors’ scope will most probably expand to include the full OHSA in the near future.
OHSA Offenses & Penalties have been increased BUT NOT Implemented as yet currently depending on the offense, the 16(1) and 16(2) (Top management) is held personally liable of up to R100,000 per offence and/or 2 years in prison.
If you think nothing ever happens to anybody who does not comply with the OHSA please look at these cases, they are my own experience as a witness to the court:
Form time-to-time review cases for the court where a person was injured due to the negligence of either the person and/or the facility owner or employer.
The following is just a short summary of a few cases related to the OHSA I have been involved in:
Worker lost a middle finger in workshop using a grinder – employer failed to implement the OHSA & COIDA and it cost the employer R1,800,000
Worker lost an arm in a bakery when cleaning a mixer – employer failed to implement COIDA & OHSA and it cost the employer R2,300,000
Worker lost a leg when using a chainsaw as part of gardening service - employer failed to implement COIDA & OHSA and it cost the employer R2,600,000
Public person injured back after falling into a pit when visiting dentist – facility management did not implement the OHSA Construction Regs nor Building regulations and it cost them R 900,000
Welding company contract revoked due to non-compliance of OHSA - related to R18,000,000 loss of income – case ongoing
Workers burn in an underground tank – claim of R5,200,000, case ongoing
The biggest case I have been involved in assisting the employer to implement corrective action and ensure compliance with various legislation amounted to R100,000,000.
The Employment and Labour Minister, Thulas Nxesi has a Vision Zero which means no harm to any worker and he and his team is set to achieve this vision and has placed a duty of care on all citizens of South Africa.
What is your business OHSA compliance status and how exposed is your company?
Contact Elint (firstname.lastname@example.org) for an evaluation and implementation plan to manage the risk and ensure compliance!