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Safety and health in the workplace in South Africa

It is required by law in South Africa that an employer should ensure a work environment that is safe and without risk to the health of workers. The Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1993 requires that “the employer to bring about and maintain, as far as reasonably practicable, a work environment that is safe and without risk to the health of the workers”.  Employers must make sure that the work environment is free of dangerous substances such as chlorine, benzene and micro-organisms. The workplace must also be free of equipment, processes and articles that may cause damage, disease or injury to employees.

Employers, according to the Safety Act, must also inform workers if it is not possible to protect them. Workers must have the dangers pointed out to them. Employers are not expected to take sole responsibility for the health and safety of their workers. The Act is based on the principle that there are inherent dangers in the workplace and there must be communication and co-operation between workers and the employer. There is, therefore, joint responsibility for safety and health in the workplace. Workers must use protective clothing, eye protection, hard-hats and so on, if they are provided by the employer. Workers should also use safety harnesses if working at heights an employers should always provide such protection.  If security fences are provided workers should respect the fence boundaries and not try to clamber over them and employers should provide safety fencing wherever necessary.

All workers should know his or her rights and duties as set out in the Safety Act and employers should provide the information. Workers and employers are involved in a system where safety and health representatives may inspect workplaces to ensure the workplace complies with the Act. The representatives then report to a health and safety committee and the committee may in turn submit recommendations to the employer. It is then incumbent upon the employer to follow through on recommendations.

Here is a link to the South African Labour Guide:  http://www.labourguide.co.za/health-and-safety/what-every-worker-and-employer-should-know-about-739

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