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  • Writer's pictureRoeleen Henning

Profile of Occupational Health and Safety - South Africa

The Profile of Occupational Health and Safety in South Africa was a joint project by the Internal Labour Organization (ILO) and the SA Department of Employment and Labour (DEL) and a first for SA.

The Profile was published in July 2021. To view the publication please visit the DEL website -

The purpose for my blog is to communicate the existence of the publication and give you a quick overview of the aspects which I found interesting. What I am sharing might not be new, to you, but it is good to see our understanding of the Occupational Health and Safety culture in South Africa is formulated and reflected in this publication.

Extract from the Executive Summary of the publication “Profile of Occupational Health and Safety in South Africa:

Legislation: Although progressive, legislation is fragmented, complicated and it generally excludes informal economy and domestic workers. Fragmentation results in inefficient use of limited resources. Legislation is viewed as punitive.

Government’s role in OSH is perceived to be a setback in that government departments are significant defaulters and are noncompliant with OSH legislation. Government departments that regulate OSH work in silos, with little coordination and collaboration. The level of awareness on OSH and reporting was viewed to be poor amongst government employees. There is a general lack of reporting of work-related injuries and diseases in the public sector.

Work related injuries and diseases data collection and reporting is fragmented and not harmonised among and within the different departments. There is no uniform way of recording and reporting injuries and diseases statistics. Therefore, there is no clear picture of the burden of OSH injuries and diseases.

Enforcement of legislation is perceived as a challenge with poor compliance by employers and serious limitations with human resources capacity for inspections. Enforcement is generally reactive.

Inspections show poor compliance by wholesale and retail sector and the construction sector. The wholesale and retail sector records the highest number of Compensation Fund claims….”

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) is outdated and needs to be revised. The good news is that the Department of Employment and Labour issued a draft bill for review and public comment. The bill has taken the guidance of the ILO. Even though there are some concerns which have been raised by SAIOSH as a collective comment from our industry the bill aims to address the concerns raised in this publication. I do believe, due to the findings of the publication, that the approval and implementation of the bill will be fast tracked.

Since the OHSA is self-regulatory the fact that more inspectors have been appointed is a step in the right direction.

The behaviour to implement and maintain a OHSA culture in business must come from visible leadership which is the Government in this context, and I am looking forward to seeing the changes proposed to rectify the compliance at Governmental level by implementing compliance standards and changing the perspective from a non-compliant Government to a compliant Government. Just as a father teaches his child through his behaviour so does Government influence business through its behaviour.

I am not a believer of enforcing the rule of law, however I do believe there is a place for it. I would rather address the problem of non-compliance through behavioural change, if people understand the reason for the rule of law and the positive impact on personal life, family, community and/or the environment the change will be accepted and implemented seamlessly. Elint focus on the person rather than the written law enforcement to ensure compliance to the law. We communicate, listen to feedback and provide information when we implement compliance standards and legislation, rather than a “just do it because the OHSA requires it”. Compliance does not have to be a “stick” or a “policing system” it can be a “culture” that is beneficial to all.

Data collection and reporting is key to any business who wants to improve. Peter Drucker quote: You can’t manage what you don’t measure. If we want to improve OHS in SA and save lives, we must start measuring in a comparison way. Once we have the information, we can make informed decisions like we have learned through COVID-19. Elint provides a platform which can be used to capture and collect the data in a meaningful, qualitative and quantitative real time dashboards. The calculations used by Elint are internationally recognized and used by global businesses already in SA. The Elint platform also allows for addisional statistical interpretations and can be customized for each client.

Contact Elint on for more information on how we can assist your business with compliance requirements and ensure the rule of law is not a stick but rather a benefit to improve and protect your business in South Africa and create a health and safety culture for all to benefit from.

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