Health and safety law update 2016 -2017

An update of health and safety laws 2016 -2017.
An update of health and safety laws 2016 -2017.

This health and safety law update of December 2016 includes health standards, rail and road transport safety; and foreign farm workers.

Health Standards Compliance complaints hotline

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health welcomed the opening of the Office of the Health Standards Compliance (OHSC) Complaints Management Call Centre.

The OHSC was created by the National Health Amendment Act three years ago, to protect and promote the health and safety of users of health services.

The quality of health care is provided for in the Constitution, said Fish Mahlalela, leader of the parliamentary delegation.

Complaints are referred to parliament, and the Health Ombudsman. The Committee has raised concerns with the filling of the position of CEO at the OHSC.

Health care workers suffer some of the consequences of the relative quality of management and governance.
Health care workers suffer some of the consequences of the relative quality of management and governance.

[See a separate report on the shockingly low levels of health and safety at some public health care facilities, revealed by Department of Labour inspections, on Sheqafrica.com]

Railway Safety Act Amendment 2017

The Railway Safety Act will again be amended in 2017, partly to co-ordinate the roles of rail operators, the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR), the Department of Transport (DOT), and other authorities.

In addition, an Economic Railway Regulator (ERR) is being formed, said DOT Public Transport Network Development chief director, Khibi Manana.

The new laws will inter alia provide for health and safety training and awareness, as part of the required transport risk management process, supporting other measures such as enforcement and engineering.

These initiatives are part of the new National Railway Policy, currently a Green Paper, to give effect to the Economic Regulation of Transport Bill of two years ago, currently in draft stage.

“Transport operators’ priorities do not always align with state strategies. There is also a lack of collaboration between departments and municipalities,” Manana said.

SADC countries are also working to harmonise and further integrate their rail operations. South Africa may convert its 1000km of Cape Gauge to International Gauge. South Africa will soon manufacture railway locomotives.

Thirteen cities have started to implement Integrated Public Transport Networks (IPTNs). Part of the national initiative includes improvements to road safety.

Farmers and farm workers have to comply

According to the 2011 population census, about 2,k7m people, or 5% of the South African population, live and work in farms. Most of these people (about 4,9%) are foreign nationals.

Department of Labour inspectors reported that foreign nationals were subjected to the worst forms of work practices, with poor living conditions, earnings far below sectoral determinations, and poor health and safety conditions.

The ministers of labour in South Africa and Mozambique have met farm workers and communities in Limpopo province, starting in Tzaneen in October 2017.

The two countries want to ensure that agriculture employers and workers understand and comply with laws applicable to farm work.

The ministers were joined by officials of various state departments to explain to the farming community how to comply with several relevant laws. The relevant departments are Home Affairs; Health; Land Affairs; Agriculture; and Social Development.

Labour inspectors enforce employment equity, immigration, basic conditions of employment, compensation, unemployment, and health and safety provisions.

Ergonomics Regulations nearing completion

The Department of Labour is drafting Ergonomics Regulations, due in 2017. Employers in every sector would have to follow guidelines relevant to their industries (see a more detailed report elsewhere on Sheqafrica.com).

Rhodes University is training the second intake of 15 ergonomic specialists, in a course of six modules, for about ten months, at NQF level 7.

Employers have to inform and educate workers on their exposures, including ergonomics risks; and apply medical management, and medical surveillance where applicable.

Business sectors, such as transport and logistics, chemicals, health services, retail, and agriculture, may each have to follow relevant guidelines.

The DOL is revising the Technical Committee that drafted the Ergonomics Regulations, starting in 2012, due to reshuffling of the six Business Unity SA (Busa) nominees.

There are also DOL specialists, and invited specialists on the committee, including Prof Kat Badenhorst, James Flynt of Safsec, a Rhodes lecturer, and two other specialists.

Current laws that already provide for management of ergonomic risks include:

  • OHS Act section 8; Employers have to assess and manage risks
  • OHS Act section 10; Exposure to hazardous substances and articles must be managed
  • OHS Act section 14; Employees have to co-operate and prevent exposure
  • OHS Act section 16; The CEO has to ensure risk management
  • Facilities Regulations 8; Ergonomics is noted
  • Construction Regulations Amendment 2014 section 9(2); Ergonomics hazards must be analysed, evaluated, and addressed
  • COID Circular 180; Occupational Health practitioners must manage upper limb disorders.

Compensation fraud accused still in court

Dr David Michael Adams (41), alleged to have defrauded the Department of Labour’s Compensation Fund (CF) of R396 660, failed in his application in the Pretoria Magistrates’ Court to have his charges dropped.

He has been out on warning for six years. Dr Adams had applied to have charges dropped following “unbecoming conduct” of one of witnesses during his appearance last month, who had demanded payment to testify.

The accused is facing 29 counts of contravening Section 6 of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, and 29 counts of theft. Dr Adams pleaded not guilty in the Pretoria Magistrates’ Court in September 2016.

He ran a practice in North West province. He remains out on a warning.

The Court said the credibility of the witness did not supersede evidence. The Court reiterated that it acted on sound judgment and on prima facie evidence it had on its disposal not to set aside the charges.

The trial is expected to continue on 21 February 2017.

The Compensation Fund is a public entity under the administration of Department of Labour. The CF provides cover to workers injured and/or who contract diseases at work.

  • Sources; DOL. DOH. DOT. Women in Rail and Safety conference. PMG. Services SETA. Sheqafrica.com
  • This post refers to some relevant legislation. It does not constitute any law, or official notice, or legal register, or legal advice.
  • South African environment law updates are posted in a separate series on Sheqafrica.com.
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Edmond Furter

Editor at Sheqafrica.com
Edmond Furter is the editor of Sheqafrica.com. He is a freelance technical journalist, and has won six journalism awards. He specialises in industrial, business, and cultural content in web, journal, and book formats.