Health and Safety – General duties of employers towards workers

General duties of employers towards workers

What must the employer do to ensure that the work environment is safe and without risk to the health of his or her workers?


The employer must provide and maintain all the equipment that is necessary to do the work, and all the systems according to which work must be done, in a condition that will not affect the health and safety of workers. Before personal protective equipment may be used, the employer must first try to remove or reduce any danger to the health and safety of his workers. Only when this is not practicable, should personal protective equipment be used. The employer must take measures to protect his or her workers’ health and safety against hazards that may result from the production, processing, use, handling, storage or transportation of articles or substances, in other words, anything that workers may come into contact with at work.

To ensure that these duties are complied with, the employer must:

  • identify potential hazards which may be present while work is being done, something is being produced, processed, used, stored or transported, and any equipment is being used
  • establish the precautionary measures that are necessary to protect his or her workers against the identified hazards and provide the means to implement these precautionary measures
  • provide the necessary information, instructions, health and safety training and supervision while keeping the extent of workers’ competence in mind. In other words, what they may do and may not do
  • not permit anyone to carry on with any task unless the necessary precautionary measures have been taken
  • take steps to ensure that every person under his or her control complies with the requirements of the Act
  • enforce the necessary control measures in the interest of health and safety
  • see to it that the work being done and the equipment used, is under the general supervision of a worker who has been trained to understand the hazards associated with the work
  • such a worker must ensure that the precautionary measures are implemented and maintained.

All workers have the right to be informed

The employer must see to it that every worker is informed and clearly understands the health and safety hazards of any work being done, anything being produced, processed, used, stored, handled or transported, and any equipment or machinery being used. The employer must then provide information about precautionary measures against these hazards.

The employer must inform health and safety representatives when an inspector notifies him or her of inspections and investigations, to be conducted at the premises. The employer must also inform health and safety representatives of any application for exemption made, or of any exemption granted to him or her in terms of the Act. Exemption means being exempted from certain provisions of the Act, regulations, notices or instructions issued under the Act.

The employer must, as soon as possible, inform the health and safety representatives of the occurrence of an incident in the workplace. An incident is an event that occurs at the workplace where a person is killed, injured or becomes ill. It is also the spillage of a hazardous chemical substance, for example, when a tank leaks formaldehyde (a chemical product used in industry) due to a faulty valve, or where machinery runs out of control, without killing or injuring anyone.

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