Health and Safety Requirements when using Contractors and Subcontractors in South Africa 


As an employer, it is imperative to consider the specific health and safety requirements when using contractors and subcontractors in South Africa. Both the employer and the contractor have their own duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993, along with any other health and safety law.

Should the contractor make use of their own subcontractors, such as a building contractor using the services of an electrician or a plumber, both will have health and safety responsibilities.

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To ensure that contractors and subcontractors remain healthy and safe while performing work, employers must ensure that:

  • The requirements of the work to be done are identified and that the risks involved have been assessed.
  • Information and training required to perform the work has been identified and will be provided.
  • As the employer, the appropriate contractor has been selected according to their skills, experience, and knowledge, and that their health and safety policies and procedures have been confirmed, and that they are in line with that of the employer.
  • As the contractor, ascertain the competence of the subcontractor.
  • There is a review on the way that work is conducted as well as the risk assessment.

The employer must ensure that there is consistent cooperation and coordination between their own employees and the contractors / subcontractors. Employers must ensure that:

  • All parties are provided with the necessary information, instruction, and training on anything which could potentially affect health and safety.
  • Contractors / subcontractors are aware of their health and safety procedures and policies.
  • Management and supervision are provided to ensure the safety of contractors / subcontractors.

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Penalties for failing in health and safety compliance

There are numerous cases in South Africa where clients, contractors, and subcontractors have been heavily fined for failing in their duties towards health and safety. Some of the failures include, but are not limited to:

  • Ensuring the competence of a contractor / subcontractor before work commences.
  • Supervision of a contractor / subcontractor’s work, activities, or operations.
  • Taking steps in preventing contact with live equipment.
  • Provision of adequate information regarding with the existence of asbestos.
  • Ensuring safe operation of vehicles.
  • Ensuring safe loading to or unloading from delivery vehicles.
  • The assessment of risks to health from regular exposure to elevated levels of vibrations.
  • Exercising of duty of care towards a contractor / subcontractor.
  • Provision of formal site-specific contractor induction, risk assessment, or method of statement, and numerous others.

Although the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 requires that the employer ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, a health and safe working environment is provided and that it is without risk to the health and safety of workers, the contractor and subcontractors also have a responsibility towards their own health and safety, along with that of others in the workplace where their operations, activities, or duties are performed.

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How can SafetyWallet help Employers and Contractors’ Health and Safety Compliance?

With SafetyWallet and its partnership with MAKROSAFE and OHS Online, subscribers can ensure that they are a part in creating a safer, healthier, and more compliant working environment. To find out how you can ensure employers’ and contractor Health and Safety, click here.

Posted date: 28th Feb 2021