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Workshop safety incidents incidents and the OHS Act

An area of high risk for safety incidents and injuries is in workshops where machinery is being used.

The problem associated with this is complacency. Although operators in general are trained/qualified or experienced with machinery the problem comes in to play when they start identifying short cuts and means of performing their task in a manner that takes the shortest time and the least effort.

The Occupational Health & Safety Act 85 of 1993 provides for this. Important sections in this regard are:

Section 8 (2) (d) –  “Without derogating from the generality of an employer’s duties under subsection (1), the matters to which those duties refer include in particular- (d) establishing, as far as is reasonably practicable, what hazards to the health or safety of persons are attached to any work which is performed, any article or substance which is produced, processed, used, handled, stored or transported and any plant or machinery which is used in his business, and he shall, as far as is reasonably practicable, further establish what precautionary measures should be taken with respect to such work, article, substance, plant or machinery in order to protect the health and safety of persons, and he shall provide the necessary means to apply such precautionary measures”

Section 8 (2) (e): “providing such information, instructions, training and supervision as may be necessary to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of his employees”.

From these sections the following four procedures/documents must be in place to show that all reasonable care was taken to prevent any risk to an employee while performing a task on machinery in a workshop.

  1. The first is that HIRA (Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment) must be done in detail (issue-based) on the particular task taking into consideration the task, the operator, the machine and the environment in which the task is performed.
  2. Then from this HIRA a SOP (Safe Operating Procedure)/WSWP (Written Safe Work Procedure) must be developed. The instructions in the SOP/WSWP must steer the operator clear from the risks identified in the HIRA.
  3. Thirdly the operator must be trained on the SOP and informed of the risks identified in the HIRA. This right to information is also included in Section 13 of theOHSAct – duty to inform.
  4. The last important procedure/process in this regard is Job Observations/Planned Task Observations. In this the supervisor must observe the operator performing the task to ensure that the operator abides by the steps set out in the SOP/WSWP ensuring the task is performed in a safe manner.

To have these procedures in place in itself is not sufficient if it can’t be proven that the one was developed on the other, that the one was drawn into the other. In other words, there must be a clear relationship and compatibility between all the related documentation.

Health and Safety supervision

Then we also have to look at the requirement of supervision, not only under Section 8 (2) (e) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, but also in terms of the General Machinery Regulations.

Section 2 (1) of this regulation is applicable. This section requires that:

“2 Supervision of machinery – (1) In order to ensure that the provisions of the Act and these Regulations in relation to machinery are complied with, an employer or user of machinery shall, subject to this regulation, in writing designate a person in a full-time capacity in respect of every premises on or in which machinery is being used”.

Important is to note that such a supervisor cannot be appointed over more than one workshop where machinery is used unless it is with the permission of an inspector in terms of sub regulation (8). This being said, in terms of subsection (7) (a) “An employer or user of machinery may designate one or more competent persons to assist a person designated in terms of sub regulation (1)”.

The purpose of such supervision is to stop an operator performing a task in an unsafe manner and to instruct on the correct and safe way to perform the task. To be able to do this the supervisor must obviously be able to perform the particular task himself in a safe manner with the necessary competence.

Do you as a company have your procedures in place and do you have supervisors appointed that is competent to ensure that the operation of machinery is done in a manner that does not cause a risk to the safety of any operator?

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