Sparks Electrical News

How amazing is it that we carry on with our daily tasks without actually thinking about the legal maze that is health and safety when we get out of bed each day and step into our offices, client premises or construction sites? Let alone travel to family or the supermarket?

HannesThis got me thinking.

We have discussed many topical issues over a long period of time (a good few years in fact), but I have never really paused to reflect on what actually rules our daily activities as electricians, electrical contractors and electrical engineers – consulting or otherwise. We just take things in our stride.

Having worked our way through SANS 10142-1: from the 2003 version through to 2012: Edition 1.8, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Act 85 of 1993) and Electrical Installation Regulations 2009, I found myself in a bit of a Catch-22 situation – where to from here? Do I immediately carry on with SANS 10142-1:2017 Edition 2, the Electrical Machinery Regulations, General Machinery Regulations or what? And then it dawned on me, this is perhaps the perfect opportunity to put legislation and the SABS publications in context, with reference to our electrical lives.

Now, do not for one minute think that I am going to list each and every code of practice, standard, Act and Regulation! I thought that by looking at the most pertinent parts of the Act and Regulations, we could form a comprehensive picture of how things fit together. In the process, I summarised all the sections found in the Act and the Regulations. It makes for quick referencing without having to page through each of the t[G1] wenty-plus publications. In this instalment, we’ll tackle the first five or so of them.

By now we all know that we have to comply with the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Act 85 of 1993). There are individuals in State Owned Companies and/or Government Departments who think they are not part of the greater South African setup and are exempt from some or most of the Regulations, but I have news for them – they are just as liable to prosecution under the Act as any other South African business or entity. Closer to our industry, not all entities, certain mining operations for instance, fall under the jurisdiction of an electrical installation as defined in SANS 10142, but the electrical installation in an underground mine must still comply with the Mine Health and Safety Act (Act 29 of 1996) – Regulation or Chapter 3 to be exact. No matter how intensively I search, I cannot get anything in the line of the Department of Labour’s Electrical Installation Regulations ... makes me wonder. The above ground construction electrical industry suffers from individuals doing just about as they please. But, how is the mining industry (a much more dangerous environment) coping?

What is the purpose of the Occupational Health and Safety Act?

The purpose is to provide for the health and safety of persons at work and for the health and safety of persons connected with the use of plant and machinery; the protection of persons other than persons at work against hazards to health and safety arising out of, or in connection with, the activities of persons at work; to establish an advisory council for occupational health and safety; and to provide for matters connected therewith.

With the above in mind… what is the scope of this Act then?

The scope of this Act is appropriately wide: it covers private industry, as well as the public sector; the agricultural sector, domestic workers in private households and indeed also persons who are exposed to hazards even though this may not occur in the context of employment. In addition, the Minister may declare that a person or category of persons specified by him or her shall, for the purposes of the Act or a portion of the Act, be deemed to be an employee.

Exclusions from the Act are as follows:

  • A mine, a mining area or any works as defined in the Minerals Act 50 of 1991, except insofar as the Act provides otherwise; (also refer the Mine Health and Safety Act (Act 29 of 1996).

  • Certain vessels are defined in the Merchant Shipping Act 57 of 1951;

  • The minister may grant exemptions from any or all the provisions of the Act; and

  • Labour brokers are not considered to be employers in terms of this Act.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 requires the employer to bring about and maintain, as far as is ‘reasonably practicable’ a work environment that is safe and without risk to the health of the worker. This means that the employer must ensure that the workplace is free of substances, articles, equipment, processes, etc. that will or may cause injury, damage or disease. Where this is not possible, the employer must inform workers of these dangers, how to avoid them and how to work safely.

The OHS Act itself is made up of 50 sections and arranged as follows:

1. Definitions

2. Establishment of Advisory Council for Occupational Health and Safety

3. Functions of Council

4. Constitution of Council

5. Period of office and remuneration of members of Council

6. Establishment of technical committees of Council

7. Health and safety policy

8. General duties of employers to their employees

9. General duties of employers and self-employed persons to persons other than their employees

10. General duties of manufacturers and others regarding articles and substances for use at work

11. Listed work

12. General duties of employers regarding listed work

13. Duty to inform

14. General duties of employees at work

15. Duty not to interfere with, damage or misuse things

16. Chief executive officer charged with certain duties

17. Health and safety representatives

18. Functions of health and safety representatives

19. Health and safety committees

20. Functions of health and safety committees

21. General prohibitions

22. Sale of certain articles prohibited

23. Certain deductions prohibited

24. Report to inspector regarding certain incidents

25. Report to chief inspector regarding occupational disease

26. Victimization forbidden

27. Designation and functions of chief inspector

28. Designation of inspectors by Minister

29. Functions of inspectors

30. Special powers of inspectors

31. Investigations

32. Formal inquiries

33. Joint inquiries

34. Obstruction of investigation or inquiry or presiding inspector or failure to render assistance

35. Appeal against decision of inspector

36. Disclosure of information

37. Acts or omissions by employees or mandataries

38. Offences, penalties and special orders of court

39. Proof of certain facts

40. Exemptions

41. This Act not affected by agreements

42. Delegation and assignment of functions

43. Regulations

44. Incorporation of health and safety standards in regulations

45. Serving of notices

46. Jurisdiction of magistrates' courts

47. State bound

48. Conflict of provisions

49. Repeal of laws

50. Short title and commencement

Paragraph or Section 43 of the Act gives life to the Regulations. We can roughly group the Regulations into about five categories or groups, each with one or more related topics namely:

  • General regulations

  • Health related regulations

  • Electrical regulations

  • Machinery regulations and

  • Specific regulations

The General regulations group consists of:

Environmental Regulations for Workplaces, 1987

1. Scope of application

These regulations in general refer to the physical conditions of the work environment.

2. Thermal requirements

3. Lighting

4. Windows

5. Ventilation

6. Housekeeping

8. Precautions against flooding

9. Fire precautions and means of egress

Facilities Regulations, 1990        

1. Scope of application

These regulations in general refer to sanitary facilities, toilets, bathrooms, showers, dining facilities, drinking water, certain prohibitions as well as the conditions of these facilities that form part of the work environment.            [G3] 

2. Sanitation

3. Facilities for safekeeping

4. Change-rooms

5. Dining-rooms

6. Prohibition

7. Drinking water

8. Seats

9. Condition of room and facilities           

General Administrative Regulations, 2003          

1. Scope of application

These regulations in general refer to the administrative procedures for the workplace and the role of the Compensation Commissioner, the Labour court and registered trade union for a workplace etc.            

2. Access to premises

3. Exemption

4. Copy of the Act

5. Health and safety committee

6. Negotiations and consultations before designation of health and safety representatives

7. Designation of health and safety representatives

9. Recording and investigation of incidents

10. Witness at inquiry

11. Returns

General Health and Safety Regulations, 1986    

1. Scope of application

These regulations refer to general health and safety matters or requirements set for the work environment.

2. Personal protective equipment and facilities

2A. Intoxication

2B. Display of substituted notices and signs

2C. Admittance of persons

3. First aid, emergency equipment, and procedures

4. Use and storage of flammable liquids

5. Work in confined spaces

6. Work in elevated positions

7. Working in danger of engulfment

8. Stacking of articles

9. Welding, flame cutting, soldering and similar operations

10. Operating trains

13A. Ladders

13B. Ramps

In the next issue, we will look at other groups of Regulations.

So, until then …


Contact Sparks Electrical News

Title: Editor
Name: Gregg Cocking
Phone: +27 11 622-4770
Fax: +27 11 615-6108

Title: Advertising Manager
Name: Carin Hannay
Phone: +27 11 622-4770
Fax: +27 11 615-6108