The OHS Act Amendment Bill will allow less self-regulation, and more inspections. The Bill will be out for public comment early in 2017 (see some detail below).
The last OHS Act review was 23 years ago, when self-regulation was introduced. The 1993 amendments had established and formalised a health and safety practice or ‘industry’. DOL chief inspector Tibor Szana repeated his earlier statement that health and safety self-regulation “did not work”.
Addressing an OHS conference for small business and SMEs in Benoni in November, Szana said that voluntary OHS professional bodies, such as hygiene body SAIOH, “for whom the Department of Labour had created business, now refuses access to its data”.
OHS professional bodies and their boards include SAIOH /SAIOH Board, IOSM /OHSAP, SAIOSH /IOSH SA, ACHASM, facilities managers, events managers, and other voluntary bodies. A Black OHS body was also announced two years ago, at the same official event where the DOL appointed the SACPCMP as registrar of construction health and safety professionals, backed by the big construction employers, Master Builders associations, and the Labour minister’s advisory council, ACOHS.
Among the public complaints against the construction HS registrar are lack of capacity, privatisation of several functions, costs, delays, conflicts of interest, duplication of some Saqa and Seta functions, usurping some training functions by questionable exams and CPD, legitimising low CHS training levels, and about 30 more complaints (see earlier reports and petitions on Sheqafrica.com). Similar complaints apply to the voluntary bodies.
Construction OHS registration to change
Responding to a construction employer’s questions on legal interpretations of construction health and safety competence, and whether Labour inspectors had to register with the SACPCMP as CHS Agents, Managers, and Officers are expected to do, Szana said the DOL is drafting a memorandum on CHS competencies, which had “evolved” into a challenge. A change in the Construction Regulations is expected in 2017.
Labour inspectors on construction sites are not required to be SACPCMP registered.
Szana agreed that registration of construction health and safety managers and officers, was “a sore point, that is receiving attention in the guidance to be issued by the end of November, drafted by a team”.
Szana said that the DOL’s current sectoral accords with construction (see an earlier report on Sheqafrica.com), iron, and chemicals employers, were “not delivering the aims”.
There is also a huge backlog in construction health and safety training and registration. Several ACOHS members, including delegates of BUSA, Cosatu, Fedusa, and Nactu, attended the Benoni conference. Some of them complained of over-regulation.
The Department of Labour’s State of Health and Safety Report will be published in 2017 (see reports on previous annual DOL self-assessments on Sheqafrica.com).
OHS Act Amendment detail
The OHS Act Amendment Bill due in 2017 (which is dated 2014, when the amendments started,) will be circulated for comment soon. The DOL advised employers that:
 Site-specific OHS risk assessments, plans, and systems (to be defined), by competent persons, appointed in writing relevant to each identified risk, would be required.
 Appointment of OHS Reps will become compulsory, no longer optional.
 The Chief Inspector may require and OHS Rep on sites with fewer than 20 workers.
 Labour unions want to reduce the minimum number of employees requiring a Health and Safety Representative and Committee, from 20 to 10, which would impact many SMEs.
 Groups of small employers may choose to share an OHS Committee and OHS Rep, but it will not be required. The DOL may subsidise such a practice.
 Negotiation with workers on OHS measures will become compulsory.
 The DOL may provide PPE support to some employers.
OHS Act Amendment comment expected
 Articles on sale must have OHS instructions attached.
 Some employers exclude incidents, injuries and diseases suffered by small contractors. Public comment on this issue is expected.
 Approved Inspection Authorities (AIAs) that are required for certain functions relevant to asbestos, Major Hazard Installations, and some others, are too expensive. Public comment on this issue is expected.
New OHS Act regulations
 Ergonomics Regulations will be added to the OHS Act (see a separate report on Sheqafrica.com).
 General Safety Regulations, Facilities Regulations, and environmental health and safety measures, would be combined.
 Hazardous chemicals handlers would have to follow the Globally Harmonised System (GHS) rules.
 Hazardous Substances Regulations and Lead Regulations would be combined.
 Asbestos Abatement Regulations are under review.
 Silicosis and hearing loss management will be better enforced.
 A guideline on compliance with the OHS Act review of 2017 will follow.
New OHS Act spot fines
 Labour inspectors will have two mechanisms of enforcement: prosecution, and/or administrative fines (‘spot’ fines) ranging between R20 000 to R50 000 per relevant section of the OHS Act, thus some employers may receive several fines after a DOL inspection. These fines would apply to all employers, including small businesses. (see an advocates’ comments on the proposed changes in administrative fines, in another report on Sheqafrica.com).
Compensation registration online from 2017
The Compensation Fund (CF) said employers would be able to register online from March 2017. Labour union Solidarity noted that the fund tended to trust submissions by employers, not workers.
The Compensation Commissioner responded that the fund is “careful of employers who could take legal action. However it is worrying that most compensation payments are made to employers and to medical service providers, not to workers”, which may be open to fraud.
- Sources: Sheqafrica.com editor Edmond Furter, reporting from the DOL OHS Conference on Sustaining OHS within the SMME environment through innovative solutions, 15 November 2016, Benoni.
- This post does not contain full detail on any relevant law, nor legal advice.
- See other reports on Labour Administrative Fines; DOL inspections; Construction Regulations; and SACPCMP registration; on Sheqafrica.com.
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