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How to keep your farm a safe working place

May 2022


Health and safety in the workplace are regarded of such importance that it is regulated by the Occupational Health and Safety Act (No. 85 of 1993) (OHSA). Both employers and employees have a responsibility to ensure that the regulations are carried out properly.

The working conditions on a farm is demanding and hazardous and accidents and injuries will occur. Injuries can be costly in terms of the possible cost of treatment, time lost, lower productivity and inconvenience.

Rather than to discuss any detail regarding the use of first aid in the workplace, we will concentrate on practical aspects from the act to manage health and safety in the workplace as required. The aim being to reduce injuries and accidents which will reduce the negative impact thereof.

Employers are required to provide and maintain (as far as it is reasonably practical) a working environment which is safe and without risks to health. To achieve this an employer should identify hazards and risks or dangers present in the workplace and take steps to eliminate or mitigate these hazards.

A hazard is defined as ‘a source of or exposure to danger’ and danger is defined as ‘anything that may cause injury or damage to persons or property’. Make sure that buildings are free of accumulations of rubbish, litter, junk and other things which could start or feed a fire, or can cause people to fall or slip.

Have you ever discussed health and safety aspects with your employees? Employers must ensure that all employees understand the requirements of the act which is to the benefit of all concerned. 

It is expected of an employer to provide the proper tools, equipment, machinery and/or implements to perform the required task or job and that these are properly maintained and in working order. Employers must ensure that employees are properly instructed on how to use machinery, how to ensure safety, and that precautions are adhered to. Are shields and guards always in place when operating machinery and/or tools?

Employees need to be trained properly to perform their tasks with the correct and suitable tools and be properly instructed about the tasks. 

It is also expected from the employer to have a first aid box available. The contents of a first aid box are prescribed in the act. It is also highly recommended that one of the employees be trained as a first aider. This is in any case a requirement should you have ten or more staff members.

Should an incident occur, it is crucial to follow the correct procedures in handling and reporting the incident to avoid penalties. Any serious injury or death on duty must be investigated by the employer and reported to the Compensation Commissioner within seven days. Minor injuries where no professional medical attention was required does not have to be reported. However, keep records of such injuries. This could be helpful to identify a possible irresponsible employee or the use of unsafe tools.

The second act related to injuries and accidents in the workplace is Act no. 130 of 1993 Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA). In essence it is compulsory insurance cover for employers should any of their employees die, sustain an injury, or contract an occupational disease during their employment.

This fund is controlled by the Compensation Commissioner and administration of reporting, penalties, collections etcetera is handled by the Department of Labour. It is compulsory for all businesses with one or more employees (whether temporary, full-time or on contract) to register with the Compensation Fund and to make the necessary annual contributions.

If registered, an employer is protected against possible civil claims by affected employees. Should an employee be absent from duty because of an injury he/she must still be remunerated but the employer may claim the remuneration from the compensation fund.

Managing on-farm health and safety properly will have a positive influence on employees. You show you care for your employees and have their wellbeing at heart – and that could be cost-saving.

Publication: May 2022

Section: Pula/Imvula