Section 7: the chief inspector may direct (a) any employer in writing; and (b) any category of employers by notice in the Gazette, to prepare a written policy concerning the protection of the health and safety of his employees at work, including a description of his organization and the arrangements for carrying out and reviewing that policy. Any direction shall be accompanied by guide-lines concerning the contents of the policy concerned. An employer shall prominently display a copy of the policy signed by the chief executive officer, in the workplace where his employees normally report for service.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act, Act 85 of 1993, requires the employer to provide and maintain as far as reasonable and practical a work environment that is safe and without risk to the health of employees. Section 7 provides employer with direction on health and safety of their organisation. The employer must have a health and safety policy once the chief inspector has guided him or her as such. It is not a requirement that all organisations have a health and safety policy but the employer still must inform employees of work-related risks and dangers. They must also inform employees of how work-related risks and dangers can be prevented.

Employers need to adhere to the minimum standard legislation but also has the freedom to set a better standard for their business. These standards should be clearly communicated to the employees and other role players present. It is advised that employers develop policies and procedures towards this end. The policy documents provide guidance on all company activities and provide the criteria to measure and evaluate efficiency. The policies and procedures are a set of documents that describe an organisation’s policies for operation and the procedures necessary to fulfil the policies. Without it, it would basically be impossible to effectively control and manage employees and other role players.  

The primary goal of a health and safety policy should be to prevent or reduce work-related accidents and occupational diseases. An appropriate policy could help to avoid the expense, inconvenience, and other consequences of workplace accidents by making sure that employees and other role players know what is expected of them. An employer who lacks the necessary rules and regulations in order to regulate the behaviour of employees and other role players cannot expect any sympathy if these persons misbehave and take advantage of the situation. The effectiveness of the policy will be determined by its ability to protect the employees. The policy should be broad enough to cover all activities performed by the company and the length should be appropriate to the activities and the size of the organisation.

The health and safety policy statement may be brief, but it should mention:

  • a description of the organisation;
  • recognize the need to comply with minimum standard legislation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act;
  • recognize the priority of safety in relation to other organizational goals and policies;
  • acknowledge the right of every employee to work in a safe and healthy environment;
  • stipulates that management is accountable for occupational health and safety programs and management’s commitment to providing a safe and healthy work environment by eliminating or minimizing the hazards that can cause accidents and injuries;
  • the organisation’s basic health and safety philosophy (statement of health and safety principles and goals);
  • the general responsibilities of all employees;
  • that health and safety shall not be sacrificed for expediency;
  • that unacceptable performance of health and safety duties will not be tolerated;
  • encourage co-operation with unions and workers to involve all employees in implementing the health and safety policy into practice;
  • the policy date;
  • be signed by the chief executive officer;
  • be visibly displayed for all workers to see; and
  • review date of the policy.

The policy simply demonstrates where an organisation stands on the health and safety of its employees. The employers become compelled to abide by the policy and can be liable for non-compliance. The policy must be monitored for effectiveness and reviewed regularly. The drafting; implementation and monitoring of the organisation’s health and safety policy is a clear demonstration of management commitment in this regard. Senior management must be committed to carrying out and review that policy consistently and completely and ensure the policy is carried out without exceptions.

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