The Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1993 consists of 50 sections where it outlines its purpose and functions. Its purpose is to provide health and safety precautions and directions to people at work, or in connection with the use of plant and machinery.
The Act also provides protection for people outside the work environment, from hazards arising out of, or in connection with, the activities of people at work.
As such, the Act stipulates the requirements on the employer to bring about and maintain, as far as it is reasonable, a work environment that is safe and without risk to employee health.
The responsibilities of the employer
This means that the employer must ensure that the workplace is free of hazardous substances (i.e. chemicals/bio-substances), articles, equipment, processes, etc. that may cause injury, damage or disease. The employer’s first responsibility is to try and remove/reduce any danger to the health and safety of their workers.
Where this is not possible, it is the employer’s responsibility to:
- inform workers of these dangers.
- provide prevention techniques and safe ways to work, such as personal protective equipment.
- offer any other protective measures where necessary.
The employer must provide and maintain all of the equipment and systems according to the work that needs to be done, and in a condition that will not affect the health and safety of workers.
To this end, the employer must:
- Identify potential hazards which may be present while work is being done, being produced, processed, used, stored or transported
- Establish the precautionary measures that are necessary to protect workers against the identified hazards and provide the means to implement these precautionary measures
- Provide the necessary information, instructions, training and supervision while keeping the extent of workers’ competence in mind.
- Not allow anyone to carry on with any task unless the necessary precautionary measures are taken
- Take steps to ensure that every person under their control complies with the requirements of the act
- Enforce control measures in the interest of health and safety
- Ensure that work is complete and that the equipment used is under the general supervision of a worker who is trained in understanding the hazards associated with the work
However, it is important to note that the employer does not have sole responsibility for health and safety.
One of the most important elements toward a healthy and safe environment, is open and regular communication regarding these issues. Employees should aim to be approachable and transparent to ensure that employees and visitors are safe in the workplace.
The Act specifies that cooperation between the workers and employers is essential in discussions about the dangers within the workplace. Workers and employers must be encouraged to share the responsibility for health and safety in the workplace.
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