The importance of health and safety in the workplace

A6Everyone needs to know and understand the importance of health and safety in the workplace, whether you are the employer or the employee. Not only is health and safety a legal requirement but we all need to promote and facilitate a culture of zero harm, to ensure and maintain a safe work environment.  Whatever sort of business industry you are involved in big or small there is always the possibility or likelihood that an accident/incident may occur injuring a person or damage to property. All work exposes people to hazards, such as: Physical, Biological or Ergonomically.

Statistically ±88% of incidents are caused by unsafe acts, ±10% of incidents are caused by unsafe conditions and ±2% of incidents are caused by natural events.  All serious incidents and accidents need to be reported that resulted in death, amputation or the loss of a limb, unconsciousness or where a person will be booked off work for 14 days or more.

Section 8 of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act, (No. 85 of 1993) states that:

  1. Every employer shall provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of his employees.
  2. Without derogating from the generality of an employer’s duties under subsection (1), the matters to which those duties refer include in particular-
  3. the provision and maintenance of systems of work, plant and machinery that, as far as is reasonably practicable, are safe and without risks to health;
  4. taking such steps as may be reasonably practicable to eliminate or mitigate any hazard or potential hazard to the safety or health of employees, before resorting to personal protective equipment;
  5. making arrangements for ensuring, as far as is reasonably practicable, the safety and absence of risks to health in connection with the production, processing, use, handling, storage or transport of articles or substances;
  6. establishing, as far as is reasonably practicable, what hazards to the health or safety of persons are attached to any work which is performed, any article or substance which is produced, processed, used, handled, stored or transported and any plant or machinery which is used in his business, and he shall, as far as is reasonably practicable, further establish what precautionary measures should be taken with respect to such work, article, substance, plant or machinery in order to protect the health and safety of persons, and he shall provide the necessary means to apply such precautionary measures;
  7. providing such information, instructions, training and supervision as may be necessary to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of his employees;
  8. as far as is reasonably practicable, not permitting any employee to do any work or to produce, process, use, handle, store or transport any article or substance or to operate any plant or machinery, unless the precautionary measures contemplated in paragraphs (b) and (d), or any other precautionary measures which may be prescribed, have been taken;
  9. taking all necessary measures to ensure that attire requirements of this Act are complied with by every person in his employment or on premises under his control where plant or machinery is used;
  10. enforcing such measures as may be necessary in the interest of health and safety;
  11. ensuring that work is performed and that plant or machinery is used under the general supervision of a person trained to understand the hazards associated with it and who have the authority to ensure that precautionary measures taken by the employer are implemented; and
  12. causing all employees to be informed regarding the scope of their authority as contemplated in section 37 (1) (b).

That means every employer or organisation needs to have a management system in place to eliminate or mitigate any hazard or potential hazard that may affect the business, employees, customers, suppliers, or the community that includes conducting risk assessments and applying the hierarchy of control (namely, elimination, substitution, isolation, engineering controls, administration and Personal Protective Equipment).

Not only is it the responsibility of the employer to ensure health and safety in the workplace, employees need to be equally involved.  Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act, (No. 85 of 1993) under section 14 states that “every employee shall take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions”.

Attention to health and safety is not just about obeying the law and being socially responsible. It also makes good business sense and should be regarded just as important as the achievement of any other key business objective.

The benefits of implementing a health and safety management system in the workplace;

  • Effective health and safety practices help you protect your staff from injury;
  • Reduced costs;
  • Reduced risks;
  • Lower employee absence and turnover rates;
  • Fewer accidents;
  • Lessened threat of legal action;
  • Improved standing among suppliers and partners;
  • Better reputation for corporate responsibility among investors, customers and communities;
  • Increased productivity, because employees are healthier, happier and better motivated.

Besides the direct and indirect costs involved in not having a management system, the other implications for not complying with the regulations as set out by the OHS Act section 38 are that it can cost you “a fine not exceeding R100 000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years or both such fine and such imprisonment.”

Great employers manage their health and safety risks because they want to ensure that “Everyone gets home Healthy and Safe”

If we can assist you in developing your OHSMS (Occupational Health and Safety Management System) contact us.

Seipati Chautsane

Health and Safety Consultant

076 424 0669

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted. (E&OE)