Contractor compliance with Health and Safety Responsibilities in South Africa – Part 1
Health & Safety and Contractor Responsibilities
A contractor’s health and safety compliance responsibilities in South Africa may often overlap that of the employer, or client, however, there are distinct duties that the contractor must fulfill regarding health and safety in the workplace.
The following section explores the duties and responsibilities that the contractor has, starting with health and safety and contractor-specific requirements.
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Health and Safety for Contractors
It is the duty of the contractor to ensure health and safety at the construction or work site. In addition, the contractor is also responsible for preparing a Site Safety File with a safety plan and for carrying it out.
The employees of the contractor must maintain compliance with the health and safety plan throughout the duration of the project, with inspections a key element in daily inspections of contractor inspectors.
Contractors must cooperate with officials of other agencies such as the government, who are vested with authority in enforcing the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993. Where required, the contractor must assist the government in preparing accident and fire reports, if applicable.
Contractor safety compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and all other applicable regulations is mandatory.
Every contractor employee is responsible for compliance with applicable safety and occupational health requirements, wearing their personal protective equipment (PPE), reporting all unsafe conditions/activities, and avoiding any actions and/or conditions that may result in an accident.
The contractor may not commence their activities in the project before submitting each deliverable specified so that a review can be conducted.
In addition, before the project may commence, the project manager of the contractor, the client’s contracting officer or representative, and relevant safety personnel must meet, review, and discuss the safety requirements.
The contractor project manager must schedule the meeting and the purpose of the meeting must be to verify that project hazards have been identified and addressed.
The contractor is also responsible for ensuring that subcontractors are compliant with their requirements as outlined in this section.
Waiver from the imposed Contractor Health and Safety Requirements
It is possible for the contractor to request a waiver from the requirements as indicated in the Contractor Health and Safety Requirements section. However, such a waiver will not free the contractor, subcontractor, or any party associated with the project from government, or similar, health and safety requirements.
When a waiver is requested by a contractor, the following must be addressed:
- The request must state the specific requirement to be waived along with the period covered by the waiver.
- The reason it is not possible or practical to comply with the requirement.
- An explanation of the impact that it would have on operations if the waiver were rejected.
- A clear indication of whether a waiver, which eliminates a requirement, or a variance, which retains the requirement but involves a different approach, is sought.
- A clear explanation of the method suggested by the contractor in lieu of the existing requirement and how it can provide protection which is equal to or greater than the requirement.
Safety Proficiency Requirements
Each employer must have certain criteria according to which they select an appropriate contractor for a task as the employer must ensure a safe working environment. Employers can consider the provision of a contractor safety program assessment.
In addition, safety, as demonstrated during previous contracts, can be used to evaluate the past performance of a specific contractor that was used on previous projects.
This will require that the contractor enrol in the assessment program. The prime contractor will subsequently be responsible to ensure that their subcontractors also complete the program before they start work.
The program can then be used to assess the contractor’s commitment to safety by reviewing any lagging or leading indicators. Should the contractor achieve a low assessment score, they are subsequently required to address any deficiencies in the program before they start working.
The assessment program can contain any of the following items:
- Company information.
- Insurance experience modification rates, or similar, if relevant.
- General liability claims.
- Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 citation history over a certain period, and
- Safety program elements.
In addition, as a minimum requirement, contractor and subcontractor employees working on the project must be certified as having completed the necessary training for such work. Proof of completion must be provided upon request and must not be expired. This should be stored in the contractor file, also known as a Site Safety File.
Should it be found that any employee fails to comply to this, they must be removed from the workplace until the required training has been completed.
Before work can start, all contractor and subcontractor site supervisors, at any tier, must complete any supervisor orientation of the client, if such is in place.
Site-Specific Accident Prevention Plan
One week before the project is started, the contractor must submit their Site-Specific Accident Prevention Plan. This must include an activity hazard analysis or hazard identification risk assessment which must indicate each major phase of work or service, as indicated in the Site-Specific Accident Prevention plan.
The contractor takes full responsibility for ensuring the safety of its personnel as well as that of subcontractors.
Contractors are required to comply with all laws, regulations, regulatory ordinances, and any governmental orders associated with employee worksite safety in performing work. Nothing done by the client, or failure to do so, where safety is concerned in performing the project scope of work will relieve the contractor of their responsibility.
The contractor must employ appropriate safety measures and take reasonable actions necessary to ensure that the life, health, and safety of employees and the public is protected, along with ensuring the protection of the property of the client in performing the scope of work.
In addition, personal protective equipment (PPE) must be selected for anticipated hazards and provided to employees. Employees must subsequently be instructed on the proper wear, maintenance, and limitations of such PPE.
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