Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Compliance

What is the definition and meaning of OHS Compliance?

Occupational Health and Safety Compliance, also known as OHS Compliance, is a standard involving compliance to all the required legal standards as they are stipulated in the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Act 85 of 1993.

These standards serve the purpose of safeguarding and protecting employees in the workplace from any hazards, risks, incidents or fatalities, or the possibility thereof. It also indicates how machinery and equipment must be used safely to prevent injury.

In addition, the act also protects co-workers, family members, employers, customers, and any other person who could be affected by the workplace environment provided by the employer.

Any non-compliance with OHSA is punishable by law. It could also result in the loss of productivity, court lawsuit cases and/or the loss of lives.

It is therefore the legal duty of all employers despite their company’s industry, sector, size, location, or nature of business, to ensure the health and safety of all employees in the workplace.

The level of compliance in any workplace can be determined by conducting an OHS Compliance audit. These audits are conducted by health and safety professionals, or auditors, who possess the skills and knowledge of the Act.

Where does OHS Compliance come from?

To understand OHS Compliance, it is imperative to understand where the Occupational Health and Safety Act originated from.

The first social insurance legislation was inaugurated by Otto von Bismarck. It was the first worker’s compensation law, introduced in 1884, and serves as the first of its kind in the Western world, with similar acts followed in other countries, partly in response to labour unrest.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act was modelled after the British Factory Act. It was important and highlighted prohibitions on the work activities of children as well as women, suggesting work hour restrictions for all employees.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act, specifically, is a statutory law in South Africa which is administered by the Department of Employment and Labour. Its full title is the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Act 85 of 1993.

It is amended by Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act, No. 181 of 1993 as well as the Labour Relations Act, No. 66 of 1995. There are several regulations under the act which are in force, with the English version of the act having been signed by the president in June 1993.

OHSA, as it is also more commonly referred to, supersedes, and repeals the Machinery and Occupational Safety Act, 1983, the Machinery and Occupational Safety Amendment Act, 1989, and the Machinery and Occupational Safety Amendment Act of 1991.

OHS Compliance

Is OHS a grudge purchase by employers?

There are adverse financial implications that companies may be exposed to should they fail to adhere to best practice. It can also lead to serious injuries and even death when there is a lack of compliance to regulations, procedures, policies, and standards.

Employers have, in more recent years, become more aware of the dangers that inadequate safety measures pose on the health and safety of employees, and the bottom line of the company.

Despite this, employers often lament high costs incurred with the lamentation of safety regulations in the workplace. There are those who exclude a comprehensive safety plan altogether, or they opt for unscrupulous suppliers.

OHS Compliance Officers

The health and safety of each worker is paramount to ensure continuous operations in any industry. Each industry type has its own guidelines and to ensure that there is continuous OHS Compliance, it requires people to guard and implement the rules for the benefit of the employees and the company.

They go by many names including Occupational Health Officers, Occupational Hazard Specialists, Safety Officers, Inspectors, and Occupational Health and Safety Specialists.

They are hired to supervise the health and safety of worksites including, but not limited to, offices, mining operations, construction sites, plants, factories, and numerous others.

They are responsible to make sure that sites are strictly abiding to the quality and safety standards set by the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

These officers are tasked with many duties, including the conducting of audits and inspections, scrutinizing cases where injuries, incidents, and deaths have occurred, analysing of health issues and grievances, establishing of safety programmes, and more.

These officers go through various courses and training to obtain specific qualifications, arming them with the skills and knowledge that they need to ensure OHS Compliance in the workplace.

Health and Safety (OHS) Manager

OHS Compliance officers are there to supervise and to ensure that the workplace remains healthy and safe for workers and visitors. There may be a few OHS officers appointed, depending on the size of the company and the various sites on which it operates.

A Health and Safety Manager, or OHS Manager, is an employee of the company who is qualified, competent, and responsible for the preparation, execution, and the continuous and consistent improvement of the Safety Management Systems within an organisation.

The individual is considered the prime mover of all issues relating to safety within the organisation.

Their major function is to ensure that the workplace remains safe and this is done through careful planning and execution of safety practices through preventative measures, training and educating of employees, as is required by the law, compliance, and best practices in the industry.

What benefits does OHS Compliance hold for employers?

There are countless benefits contained in ensuring OHS compliance in the workplace, including, but not limited to:

  • Improved health and safety performance.
  • Reduced costs associated with accidents and incidents.
  • Improved staff relations as well as morale.
  • Increased business efficiency as well as an improved public image and PR.
  • Lower insurance premiums and easier access to financing.
  • Increased regulatory compliance and improved confidence.
  • A substantial boost to corporate as well as social responsibility.

OHS Compliance Benefits

What benefits doe a Health and Safety Compliance Certificate have?

Firstly, an OHS Compliance certificate is obtained when an employer is found to be health, safety, and environmentally safe. As soon as an OHS Compliance audit has been conducted by a SafetyWallet auditor, and all is found in order, the employer is issued with a compliance certificate.

This serves as proof that the employer provides a workplace in which the health and safety of workers and visitors to the site is taken care of. There are numerous benefits to obtaining such a certificate, and it links directly back to the benefits of being OHS compliant.

Why does an employer need an OHS Compliance certificate?

The OHS Compliance certificate proves that they are legally compliant to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and that an audit has been done to confirm this. It is imperative to build confidence in workers and in the interest of the business itself for future ventures.

The OHS Compliance Policy

An OHS compliance policy can be described simply as a plan of action which is concerned with the protection of health, safety, and welfare of employees.

These policies are designed to protect workers from hazardous work environments by ensuring clean work areas, the use of protective equipment, safeguarding of machinery, training of employees, and more.

These policies are based on the Occupational Health and Safety Act and they require that employers provide employees with a safe working environment. The compliance to policies are ensured by conducting routine inspections and frequent audits.

They require that employers maintain certain standards in workplaces and violations to these are often punished by fines, and in worst cases, the filing of criminal charges.

A lot of employers may find that in introducing new OHS compliance policies there may be controversy, with employers concerned with the cost of complying with regulations outweighing their benefits. However, studies have found that companies and employers who follow policies benefit greatly from lower labour cost and less complaints associated with workman compensation.


Posted date: 31st Jan 2021
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