Health and safety law update February 2015

This South African health and safety law update of February 2015 includes Labour, UIF, ISO, DTI and NRCS amendments, labour broking, and skills issues.

OHS Act to clarify obligations
The Department of Labour would amend the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act in 2015 to clarify the existing legal obligations of employers. The OHS Act would also provide for further powers to Labour inspectors, said chief director of Labour Relations, Thembinkosi Mkalipi.

Employers have to maintain medical certification
Labour brokers are not regarded as employers in term of the OHS Act, as defined in section 1, and therefore do not have to issue medical certificates of fitness for workers, as required in the Construction Regulations Amendment of 2014.

Employers may request this service from labour suppliers, and would probably be chaged a fee, said NIOCCSA. The legal duty to maintain valid medical certificates remains with employers.

Zambian Yellow fever vaccination
The SA Minister of Health announced that travellers from Zambia to South Africa will no longer require proof of Yellow fever vaccination, from February 2015.

More compensation control
The Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases (COID) Act would be amended in 2015 as part of the ongoing turnaround strategy, by setting further governance and control provisions over the Compensation Commissioner.

Unemployment benefits to extend to a year
The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) Act would extend benefits to injured workers from nine months, to 12 months.

DTI takes NRCS from SABS
The National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS), an SABS inspection and testing authority with powers to remove products from the market, will be moved away from the SABS, to the authority of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in 2015.

The DTI will re-structure several semi-state agencies to make them directly accountable to the state, instead of their own boards of directors.

DTI deputy director-general Zodwa Ntuli said an assessment had found that “the boards of directors of these agencies incur unnecessary expenses, and impede decisions necessary for regulators and the industries they regulate.”

The assessment found that these semi-state agencies, as regulators, do not need an elaborate structure. The state would not ‘control’ the entities, but free them from oppressive boards.

The DTI Liquor Board, however, would become a trading entity with greater operational independence, retaining its audit committee, and gaining more powers to reduce the social impacts of alcohol abuse.

The National Gambling Board, currently run by two administrators appointed by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, would become a regulator to powers to combat illegal online gambling, much as the Black Economic Empowerment Commission regulates its own field independently.

The National Lotteries Board would become the National Lotteries Commission, and retain a board to oversee distribution of funds to good causes.

The DTI has proposed the controversial draft Licensing of Businesses Bill, which would require all businesses to be licensed with a municipality.

Ergonomics Regulations to come
Civil engineering body SAFCEC is among the member of a technical committee developing ergonomics regulations. The construction sector could be significantly impacted by this regulation. However mining would probably not be, due to the traditional split between mining and other industries in South African law.

ISO standards require measurement of effectiveness
The new ‘high level’ structure of ISO standards, set out in Annex SL, applies to ISO 9001: 2015. It will soon also apply to ISO 14001, and to the new risk management system standard ISO 45001, which will replace OHSAS 18001.

All global standards will soon have ten clauses, with similar terminology, and require proof of the effectiveness of management measures before certification of the relevant management system.

Internal and external management system auditors will no longer concentrate on proof of the elements of management systems, nor on documented procedures, but on documented proof of the effectiveness of procedures.

SACPCMP crunching registration numbers
The SA Council for Project and Construction Management Professions (SACPCMP) last year increased its staff from eight to 21 “to be more effective in developing systems and processes” and to add construction health and safety registration to its role as construction management registrar.

However only about 40 of the 900 applicants for the controversial construction health and safety registration were awarded various designations.

About half the applicants did not pay the various fees, many did not submit the required documents, and many did not write the re-testing exams.

Meanwhile some of the 16 voluntary bodies recognised by the SACPCMP as continued professional development (CPD) agencies, are offering workshops, seminars, conferences and online questionnaires. A one-day OHS conference by ACHASM last year offered five CPD points at R2000.

Some other organisations are selling two-day conferences at R4000 for five CPD points. The system has been labelled an empty quick-fix racket by critics of the OHS ‘professionalisation’ scheme. They agree that OHS Agents (mainly engineers) and OHS Managers (not provided for in the Construction Regulations) may register if they so wish, but that OHS Officers should not be forced to ‘professionalise’.

The Labour Department chief inspector said last year the deadline of August 2014 for enforcing appointment of registered OHS people on employers, would not be extended again. Proliferation of CPD events appears to be aimed at saving the scheme, despite its questionable contribution to competence, which is legally defined as a combination of knowledge, skills, and experience.

Accredited courses and CPD events are generally awarded one point per day. The School of Consulting Engineering offers two-day courses in risk and quality themes, for two CPD points, and one-day courses at one CPD point. The University of Pretoria (UP) offers a 20-day course in Construction Mentorship, of 20 points, for R28 000. Awarding five points for one-day or two-day events is therefore irregular.

The SCE also offers a 4-hour course in Construction Health and Safety and Risk Management via the SACPCMP, raising suspicion that the registrar is involved in training provision, against the provisions of its SAQA recognition as a professional body.

Some critics of the system consider advertisements by employers for ‘registered OHS Officers’ to be premature, impractical, and perhaps in contravention of certain rights.

Some practitioners said they were torn between spending time and money on raising their skills by accredited training, or first following the elaborate registration process to gain a low level designation, and then returning to their studies.

Process safety management standard launched
Implementation of revised Process Safety Management Practice Standard became mandatory for Responsible Care signatories and their contractors in January 2015.

The new standard and audit protocol is aligned with the content of the Responsible Care Process Safety training modules, that are based on CCPS Risk-based Process Safety.

Each of the Responsible Care management practices describes an activity or approach in the prevention of fires, explosions and accidental releases. The management practices encompass all the elements of process safety, from the design stage to operation, maintenance and training.

The new RC standard could set a precedent in health and safety standards adopted as best practice in other industries, in aligning training and management systems. It could lead to simpler definitions of health and safety scopes of service, and OHS competence.

• Sources; DOH. DOL. DTI. DPW. CAIA.
• South African environment law updates are posted separately on Sheqafrica.com

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