What every contractor and/or supplier in South Africa must know about health and safety – Part 1


There are numerous guides that elaborate on what every contractor and/or supplier in South Africa must know about health and safety. The reason for this concerns the importance surrounding an employer’s duty towards providing a safe and healthy working environment.

The following few sections will provide employers with all that they need to know as there is no substitute for the OHS Act in South Africa, and thus, compliance is mandatory.

The OHS Act, 1993, requires that employers bring about and maintain, as far as reasonably practicable, a work environment that is both safe and without risk to the health of employees.

This means that all employers must ensure that the workplace is free of hazardous substances including, but not limited to:

  • Benzene
  • Chlorine
  • Micro organisms
  • Articles
  • Equipment
  • Processes, and numerous others that may cause injury, damage, or disease.

Where reduction or elimination is not possible, employers must inform employees of such dangers, how they may be prevented, how work can commence safely, and provide other protective measures to ensure that the workplace is safe.

However, the employer can not be the only one to take responsibility for OHS. The Act is built on the premise that dangers that exist in the workplace can be addressed through communication as well as cooperation between workers and the employer.

There is a shared responsibility between the employer and employees where health and safety are concerned in the workplace. Both parties must work to proactively identify dangers and develop control measures to ensure a safe workplace.

Through this, the employer and employees are both involved in a system in which OHS representatives can inspect the workplace frequently, report to an OHS committee, and who in turn can submit recommendations to the employer.

What every contractor and/or supplier in South Africa must know about health and safety – Part 1

The OHS Act and Regulations

The OHS Act of 1993 (Act 85 of 1993) consists of 50 sections that are promulgated by Parliament. The Act serves the purpose of providing for the health and safety of people at work, or in connection with the use of the plant as well as machinery.

Furthermore, it also provides for the protection of persons, other than those in the workplace, from hazards that may arise out of, or in connection with, the activities of those at work.


Department of Employment and Labour

The OHS Act is administered by the Chief Directorate of Occupational Health and Safety of the Department of Employment and Labour. To ensure both the health & safety of employees, there are provincial offices in each of the provinces.

To this end, there are occupational health and safety inspectors from all the provinces who carry out inspections as well as investigations at workplaces.



Inspections are planned according to accident statistics along with the presence of hazardous substances, including the use of benzene in laundries, the use of dangerous machinery, and others.


Unplanned Inspections

These usually arise from either requests or complaints by workers, employers, or members of the public. Such requests or complaints are treated with great confidentiality.

Should an inspector find any dangerous or adverse conditions present in the workplace, they may set requirements for the employer in any of the following ways:

  • Prohibition notice
  • Contravention notice, or
  • Improvement notice

To enable the inspector to carry out their duties, they may enter any workplace or premises where machinery and/or hazardous substances are being used, and question or serve a summons on persons who appear before them.

In addition, the inspector may request that any documents be submitted to them, investigate, and make copies of such documents, and demand an explanation regarding any entries in such documents.

Lastly, the inspector may also inspect any condition or article, take samples, or seize any article which could potentially serve as evidence.


General duties of employers towards their employees

The employer must, according to law, provide and maintain all the equipment used to perform the work. This also includes the systems according to which work must be done and which it must be kept in a safe condition. Before PPE may be used, the employer must first reduce or remove dangers to the health & safety of employees.

Should this not be practicable, can PPE be used. The employer must take the necessary steps to protect their employees’ health & safety against hazards that could arise from the production, processing, use, handling, storage, or transportation of articles or substances.

To ensure that such duties are complied with, the employer must, therefore:

  • Identify any potential hazards which may be present in the workplace.
  • Establish the precautionary measures which are necessary to protect employees against such identified hazards in addition to providing the means for these measures to be implemented.
  • Provide the necessary information, instructions, training, and supervision while simultaneously keeping the extent of employees’ competence in mind.
  • Prohibit employees from work unless the necessary precautions have been taken to ensure their safety.
  • Take the necessary steps to ensure that each person under their control complies with the requirements of the Act.
  • Enforce the necessary control measures.
  • Ensure that the work being done, and equipment used, is under the general supervision of a worker who has the required training to understand the hazards associated with the work. Such a worker must ensure that the necessary measures are implemented as well as maintained.


All workers have the right to be informed

The employer must ensure that every worker is informed and that they clearly understand the safety hazards of any work being done, where anything is being produced, processed, used, stored, handled, or transported, and where equipment and/or machinery is being used.

Subsequently, the employer must also provide the necessary information regarding precautionary measures against the hazards which have been identified.

When the employer is notified by an inspector of their inspection and investigations, the employer must inform their OHS representatives.

Should an incident have occurred, the employer must inform their OHS representatives.


What are the general duties of manufacturers, designers, importers, sellers, or suppliers?


Manufacturers, designers, importers, sellers, and suppliers must:

  • Ensure that articles are safe and without any risk to health & safety. In addition, it must comply with all prescribed requirements.
  • Ensure that, when a structure or article is installed on the premises, it is done in a way that does not create an unsafe situation or health risk.

What every contractor and/or supplier in South Africa must know about health and safety – Part 1


Manufacturers, designers, importers, sellers, and suppliers must:

  • Ensure that substances are safe and that they do not pose any risk to health when it is in proper use.
  • That there is adequate information available on:
    • The proper use of substances.
    • Health and safety risks associated with the substances.
    • Conditions necessary to ensure that substances are safe and that they are without risk to health when they are safely used, and
    • Procedures to follow should an accident occur.


General duties of employees

Employees are tasked with the duty of:

  • Take care of their own health & safety as well as those who may be affected by their actions or negligence to act.
  • Cooperation with the employer where the Act imposes duty or requirements on employees.
  • Provide information to an inspector from the Department of Labour, should they require such.
  • Carry out all lawful instructions given by the employer or an authorised person in association with OHS.
  • Comply with the rules as well as procedures provided by the employer.
  • Wear the prescribed PPE and/or use prescribed safety equipment where required and mandatory.
  • Report any unsafe and/or unhealthy conditions to the employer or the OHS representative as soon as possible.
  • Should they be involved in an incident that may affect their health, or cause an injury, report the incident to the employer, authorised person, or the OHS representative as soon as possible, but no later than the end of their shift.


Employee Rights

Right to Information

Employees must have access to:

  • The OHS Act and Regulations.
  • OHS rules as well as procedures of the workplace, and
  • OHS standards that must be kept in the workplace.

In addition, employees may also request that the employer inform them of the following:

  • Health & safety hazards in the workplace.
  • Precautions which must be taken, and
  • Procedures to be followed should an employee be exposed to substances that are hazardous to their health.

In addition, employees also have the right to:

  • Participate in inspections
  • Comment on legislation and make representations
  • Not to be victimized
  • To appeal



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

SafetyWallet works to ensure that its subscribers are supported and assisted in all matters relating to OHS, and through a partnership with MAKROSAFE and OHS Online, subscribers can ensure that they are a part of creating a safer, healthier, and more compliant working environment. To find out how you can ensure employer and contractor’s OHS compliance, Contact Us

Posted date: 13th Mar 2021