Changes and updates to South Africa’s occupational health and safety (OHS) Act will soon see greater responsibility and penalties for non-compliant employees.

“The pandemic brought health and safety sharply into focus. It emphasised the importance of OHS on the corporate agenda and encouraged workplaces to become more aware of safety procedures,” says Afroteq Advisory health and safety practitioner Viann Nel.

While many businesses have a few, basic OHS policies and procedures in place, these may no longer be sufficient, so the Department of Employment and Labour (DEL), in collaboration with lawmakers and business professionals, has drafted an amendment to the OHS Act, currently out for public comment.

“It has become clear that the current OHS Act needs an update, given how quickly the corporate environment is developing and changing. Every aspect of every operation should be designed to increase safety. Getting companies to meet the bare minimum requirements is no longer enough,” asserts Nel. Although the new Act is unlikely to be promulgated before year end, the DEL has directed all health and safety practitioners to ensure proposed changes are put into practice, by acting as though the updates are already implemented. Close to a thousand inspectors have been recruited to randomly travel to enterprises to assess work environments for health and safety precautions, issuing fines where necessary.

“Every organisation, regardless of size, will be expected to have a risk management plan in place, directly aligned with identified hazards and risks, by implementing suitable and related systems, documents, checklists, and templates. The new strategies will be more descriptive in response to a thorough workplace risk assessment, making health and safety protocols easier to implement, with more clearly defined parameters,” Nel expands. “This contrasts with historically generic risk management strategies. Policies, procedures, and updated training programmes created specifically to meet the demands of a given workplace must be in place as part of specialised risk mitigation strategies.”

One thing is certain: the amended Act will place more responsibility on employers to ensure their employees’ safety and well-being. But it will also demand greater employee awareness, as they will be expected to adhere strictly to the risk management plan as the law, not a mere suggestion. They will be expected to play an active role in implementing and adhering to policies and procedures, and will be held responsible for identifying potential exposure in the workplace environment.

“A detailed risk management plan must be developed for both permanent and non-permanent staff members. The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in an exponential rise in the number of people working from home, so companies are now also expected to provide for these employees from an OHS perspective, regarding their health, safety, and how they interact with technology (ergonomics),” says Nel.

“Afroteq Advisory is ready and available to assist clients to develop and implement a tailor-made workplace specific risk assessment and management plan. Our sister company Afroteq Academy offers a range of unit standard-aligned online compliance and OHS training to assist companies and their staff to understand, develop, implement, and manage OHS in their workplace.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.