On the 15th of October 2015, News24 reported that an employee at a Univa factory in Ga Rankuwa near Pretoria, producing washing machines and electrical stoves, was injured while operating machinery that she had not been trained to operate. It was stated by the employee that due to her fear of losing her job, after informing her supervisor that she was unable to operate the machine, she operated the machine, which cut off four fingers on her left hand. She had only been employed at the company for three days.

There are various provisions in the South African legislation that require employees to be adequately trained in the tasks that they perform. These are included in the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 85 of 1993 (the “OHSA”), the OHSA Regulations, the Labour Relations Act, 66 of 1995, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 75 of 1997, the Mine Health and Safety Act, 29 of 1996 and the Minerals Act, 50 of 1991 Regulations (for a list of the applicable sections of relevant legislation on your Site(s), please click on the following tag: Health and Safety Information and Training).

Section 8 of the OHSA creates an obligation on an employer to “provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of his employees”.

Two of the duties, as listed in section 8, that must be complied with by the employer, in achieving this obligation, is to:

  • provide information, instructions, training and supervision as may be necessary to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of employees at the workplace;
  • ensure that work is performed and that plant or machinery is used under the general supervision of a person trained to understand the hazards associated with such machinery, and who have the authority to ensure that precautionary measures taken by the employer are implemented.

Failure to train employees in terms of the requirements of the law, may result in employees being injured in the course of their employment and the employer being found guilty of contravening its obligations in terms of the law. In terms of section 38(a) of the OHSA, “any person that contravenes or fails to comply with the provisions of, amongst others, section 8, shall be guilty of an offence and on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding R50,000 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or to both such fine and such imprisonment.

The employee in the News24 article raised the issue of compensation. Compensation for disablement, caused by occupational injuries, sustained by employees in the course of their employment, are provided for in the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, 130 of 1993 (the “COIDA”). If the requirements of section 22 of the COIDA are met, the employee may receive compensation in terms of COIDA.

It is imperative for employers to provide a safe working environment for its employees. Training of employees in the tasks that they perform is one such way in which injuries and disablement can be avoided.