Occupational Safety Act & Construction

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25 Oct 2012

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) (Act 95 of 1993) affects all construction work and does not strictly apply to property developers, according to Heidi Franck, Group chief operating officer of One Property Holdings.

To this end, an employer must ensure that the contractor has registered with the Workmen’s Compensation Commissioner and that he/she is responsible for the health and safety of his/her employees. Furthermore, the contractor must have some manner in which to administer first aid should an incident arise and the means to transport the worker to a hospital should an injury occur.

She explains that OHSA outlines a series of construction regulations to protect the safety of workers and says while many believe the Act applies strictly to property developers, OHSA actually applies to all construction work.

Regulations 1&2 of the Construction Regulations (OHSA) define construction as “The construction, erection, maintenance, alteration, renovation, repair, demolition, or dismantling of or addition to a building or any other similar structure”

Why is compliance so important? “The Act is set up so that it is the employer, and not the contractor, who is responsible for compliance,” says Franck.

Franck says the penalty for non-compliance is a maximum fine of R100 000 and/or imprisonment.

Ultimately this means that it is up to the employer to ensure that the contractor is compliant with Act, as he/she will be liable for the penalty, due to non-compliance.

To this end, an employer must ensure that the contractor has registered with the Workmen’s Compensation Commissioner and that he/she is responsible for the health and safety of his/her employees.

Furthermore, the contractor must have some manner in which to administer first aid should an incident arise and the means to transport the worker to a hospital should an injury occur.

Finally, the contractor must report any injuries to the Department of Labour.

“It is important that the employer ensures that the contractor signs a contract in which he agrees to comply with the OHSA.”

The most important document in the process is a Health and Safety Specification, which requires that a risk analysis takes place.

In the past, the costs and administration around the Health and Safety Specification were the responsibility of the contractor.

However, under the OHSA, this has now become the burden of the employer and in many cases, the contractor will be able to assist the employer with the process.

In some cases, however, such as the building of a new home, the process will be beyond the capability of the employer and the contractor and the services of a Health and Safety Consultant will be required.

“Twenty years ago, this job did not exist and yet today property developers and body corporates would be well advised to allocate additional budget to employ a Health and Safety Consultant on site.

“It’s a lot like insurance, you don’t need it until you need it,” she says.

Despite the fact that the employer will be criminally liable for non-compliance with the Act – and short-term insurance will not cover criminal activity – there is a responsibility that lies with the employer to take care of the people working on his premises.

“This entails ensuring that workers have all the equipment they require to carry out their jobs safely.”

Franck recommends the services of Health and Safety Consultants to ensure compliance in this regard.

Not only will they ensure compliance to the Act and take care of the process, they are also able to keep records which will assist should monthly Health and Safety audits be required.

Ultimately, Franck believes that delegation comes at a high price.

“This applies most specifically within the property industry, where delegation will most likely occur to property managers.”

 If you do choose to go this route, it is imperative that property managers are given the correct training to do the job properly – after all, the aim is to avoid human tragedy at all costs, she adds.

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