Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

1.7. Explain the general safety rules in a workplace

ryanrori February 8, 2021

[responsivevoice_button rate=”0.9″ voice=”UK English Female” buttontext=”Listen to Post”]

A variety of factors both at the workplace and in our private lives have an impact on our ability to work safely. These factors, as they relate to the workplace, must be dealt with through the normal procedures for dealing with health and safety issues at the workplace. 

Employers have a general duty to provide a safe workplace and safe systems of work.

Employees must take reasonable care of their own health and safety and not endanger others at the workplace.

The OHS General Safety Regulations stipulate the following general safety standards and guidelines for the workplace in terms of the following:

  • Personal protective equipment and facilities.
  • Intoxication
  • Display of substituted notices and signs
  • Admittance of persons
  • Prevention of transmission of HIV, Hepatitis Virus and other Blood-borne
  • diseases
  • First aid, emergency equipment, and procedures
  • Use and storage of flammable liquids.
  • Work in confined spaces.
  • Work in elevated positions.
  • Working in danger of engulfment
  • Stacking of articles
  • Welding, flame cutting, soldering and similar operations
  • Operating trains
  • Ramps

In this section we are going to discuss medical and non-medical intoxication, access requirements to the workplace, motorised and mobile equipment in the workplace, lock out procedures, symbolic and other signage applicable to the workplace.

The requirements that apply to persons that may be medically and non-medically intoxicated

The use of alcohol and other drugs becomes an occupational health and safety issue if a person’s ability to exercise judgment, coordination, motor control, concentration and alertness is affected at the workplace, leading to an increased risk of injury or illness.

Employees affected by alcohol or other drugs may present a hazard in the workplace, causing injury to themselves and others. Co-workers may also be placed in difficult situations, expected to cover for unsafe work practices or faced with reporting a fellow employee

Sections 8 and 14 set out requirements that apply to persons that may be medically and non-medically intoxicated and impose upon the employer and employee an extensive general duty of maintaining a safe working environment – a duty embellished in the OHSA’s General Safety Regulations, section 2A of which deals with intoxication. It reads: 

An employer or a user, as the case may be, shall not permit any person who is or who appears to be under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs, to enter or remain at a workplace.

No person at a workplace shall be under the influence of or have in his or her possession or partake of or offer any other person intoxicating liquor or drugs.

An employer or a user, as the case may be, shall, in the case where a person is taking medicines, only allow such person to perform duties at the workplace if the side effects of such medicine do not constitute a threat to the health or safety of the person concerned or other persons at such workplace….”

It is important for all employers to have a written Alcohol and Drug Abuse Policy. The policy must state that the employer’s rule is “Zero tolerance”.

A recent Court judgement dealt with the matter Astore Africa (Pty) Ltd v CCMA & others [2008] 1 BLLR 14 (LC) where an employer dismissed an employee (a truck driver) for being drunk on duty, and the CCMA at arbitration ordered reinstatement of the employee, stating that the employer had failed to prove that the driver was incapable of driving.

All employees on the provisions of Section 14 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and keep it on file. By training everyone in their overall duties, you earn the right to enforce these duties!

Section 14 reads: 

Every employee shall at work —

a.    take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions;

b.    as regards any duty or requirement imposed on his employer or any other person by this Act, co-operate with such employer or person to enable that duty or requirement to be performed or complied with;

c.     carry out any lawful order given to him, and obey the health and safety rules and procedures laid down by his employer or by anyone authorized thereto by his employer, in the interest of health or safety;

d.    if any situation which is unsafe or unhealthy comes to his attention, as soon as practicable report such situation to his employer, or to the health & safety representative for his workplace or section thereof, as the case may be, who should report it to the employer; and

e.    if he is involved in any incident which may affect his health or which has caused an injury to himself, report such incident to his employer or to anyone authorized thereto by the employer, or to his health and safety representative, as soon as practicable but not later than the end of the particular shift during which the incident occurred, unless the circumstances were such that the reporting of the incident was not possible, in which case he shall report the incident as soon as practicable thereafter

Employees must also tell you if they’re unable to perform their duties safely because of intoxication, medication or drugs.

The consequences of intoxication to general safety in the workplace

Alcohol and other drugs can cause a range of problems for employers. In some cases, their use may lead to loss of life, injury, damage to plant or equipment and negative publicity for the business.

The harmful effects of intoxication in the workplace add costs as a result of injuries, absenteeism, lost production, workers compensation and rehabilitation. It creates a range of problems. Employees can cause injury to themselves and others, can lose their job or family and damage their physical and mental health. Co-workers are faced with risks to their health, safety and welfare, covering for poor work performance, disputes and the need to tell a friend for their own good.

Employers are faced with lateness and absenteeism, lost time and production from accidents, inefficiency, and damage to plant, equipment and other property.

By working while intoxicated, employees constitute a threat to themselves and those around them. 

Employees have a duty to inform you of any behaviour affecting health and safety in the workplace. If they don’t comply, they will be in contravention of General Safety Regulation 2A(3) and Section 14 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). They could end up with a R50 000 penalty, two years in jail or both.