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Demystifying the OHS Act in three steps… starting with an employer’s responsibilities

Posted by NOSA on Nov 14, 2016 10:00:00 AM

In many of our interactions, we meet health and safety professionals determined to follow legislation – the only problem is they don’t always understand what it is they’re required to do.


We’re here to help. In the next three blogs, we’re going to break down the following sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS Act):

  • Employer responsibilities
  • Employee responsibilities
  • General prohibitions


Let’s begin…


If you’re an employer, as far as is reasonably practicable, you are obliged to do the following (in terms of the OHS Act).


Health and safety policy

An employer shall prominently display a copy of your health and safety policy, signed by the chief executive officer, in the workplace where your employees normally report for service.


Your duties to your employees

  • As an employer, it is your duty to provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risk to your employees.
  • Without taking away from the fundamentals of an employer’s duties, this includes:
  • providing and maintaining systems of work, plant and machinery that are safe and without risk to health
  • eliminating or minimising any hazard or potential hazard to the safety or health of employees, before resorting to PPE
  • making arrangements for ensuring the safety and absence of risks to health, connected with producing, processing, using, handling, storing or transporting articles or substances
  • establishing what hazards exist to the health and safety of employees who are attached to:
  • any work that is performed
  • any article or substance, which is produced, processed, used, handled, stored or transported
  • any plant or machinery, which is used in your business
  • establishing the necessary precautionary measures you and your company will need to take (regarding such work, article, substance, plant or machinery) to protect the health and safety of people
  • providing the necessary means to apply the necessary precautionary measures
  • providing the relevant information, instructions, training and supervision needed to ensure the health and safety of your employees
  • not allowing any employees to do any work or to produce, process, use, handle, store or transport any article or substance, or to operate any plant or machinery without the relevant precautionary measures put in place
  • ensuring all employees comply with your health and safety measures and policies, where they use plant or machinery
  • enforcing precautionary measures
  • ensuring that any work your employees perform, and any plant or machinery they use, is done under the general supervision of a person who is trained in the associated hazards, who has the authority to ensure that the precautionary measures are implemented
  • informing all employees about the scope of their authority.


Your duties to people other than your employees

As an employer (or a self-employed person), you will ensure that everyone other than your employees, who may be directly affected by the activities of your company, are not exposed to any hazards to their health and safety.


General duties of manufacturers regarding articles and substances used at work

If you are an employer who:

  • designs
  • manufactures
  • imports
  • sells
  • supplies


any article to use at work, you must ensure the article is safe and without risk to the health of anyone when it is properly used and that it complies with all prescribed requirements.


If anyone erects or installs an article to use at work, you must ensure that nothing about the way you erect or install it makes it unsafe or creates risk to health when it is properly used.


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If as an employer, you manufacture, import, sell or supply any substances to use at work, you must:

  • ensure the substance is safe and without risk when it is properly used
  • take the necessary steps to ensure that you make information available regarding:
  • the use of that substance at work
  • the risks to health and safety associated with the substance
  • the conditions necessary to ensure the substance will be safe and without risks to health when it is properly used
  • the procedures to follow in the case of an accident involving the substance.


General duties of employers regarding listed work

  • Every employer whose employees undertake listed work, and are potentially exposed to hazards surrounding that work, will (after consultation with your workplace’s health and safety committee):
  • identify the hazards and evaluate the risks associated with the work and the steps you need to take to minimise and avoid these
  • prevent employees being exposed to the hazards concerned or, where prevention isn’t possible, minimise such exposure
  • carry out an occupational hygiene programme and biological monitoring, including medical surveillance on your employees.
  • Every employer must keep their designated health and safety representatives informed of the above actions you’ve taken. This is provided that the individual results of the biological monitoring and medical surveillance are released (to any person other than an inspector, you the employer or the employee in question) with the written consent of each employee.


Your duty as an employer to inform

Without taking away from any specific duty you’ve imposed, you as the employer must:

  • ensure every employee is conversant with the hazards attached to:
  • any work they have to preform
  • any article or substance they have to produce, process, use, handle, store or transport
  • any plant or machinery they are required or permitted to use

as well as the precautionary measures they should take and observe regarding those hazards.

  • inform, in advance, your health and safety representatives concerned of:
  • inspections
  • investigations
  • formal inquiries

of which the inspector has notified you, and of any application for exemption you have made.

  • inform a health and safety representative as soon as reasonably practicable, of an incident occurring in the workplace or a section of the workplace where they are designated to perform their duties.







Topics: Risk management

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