Health and safety exam questions and answers; OHS Act

Sample health and safety exam questions and answers from various sources are posted here. This post is on OHS Act questions.

Exam Q&A extracts are posted for comparison to local approaches and training material. The extract is not comprehensive and does not represent a full course, exam, or qualification. Approaches and legislative elements vary among African countries. [see some links to 2016 reports on OHS Act aspects below].

OHS Act questions and answers

  • What does OHS Act stand for (3 points), and provide for (6 points or more)?
  • When could a worker stop work, or stop a process (2 points)?
  • To which workplaces does the OHS Act not apply (2 points)?

The SA Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS Act) was promulgated in 1994 to provide for some of the rights of workers in the workplace, excluding mines and ships. It requires management to maintain healthy and safe conditions and actions, as far as reasonably practicable, by using a management system, informing workers of hazards and risks, training workers for their jobs, and involving workers in identifying and managing exposure to hazards and risks, by a committee structure, including safety representatives and committees.

Any worker could refuse to expose himself or herself to health or safety hazards, and could stop work, or a work process, to prevent harm to any worker or member of the public. Workers should report unhealthy or unsafe conditions to their supervisors or safety reps.

Name other legislation that applies to health and safety at work?

SA Constitution, Act 108, is the supreme law, and laws or conduct or contracts inconsistent with it, are invalid. Several sections in the Constitution promote principles of a safe and healthy work.

Section 12(2)(b) promotes the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right to security in and control over a person’s own body.

Section 24(a) promotes the right to an environment that is not harmful to health or well-being.

Several sets of Regulations under the OHS Act, such as Pressure Vessels, Electrical installations, Driven machinery, Construction, and related laws such as the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, and Basic Conditions of Employment Act, include regulation of working time that promote good practices in the workplace regarding occupational health and safety.

There are guidelines in law on managing specific jobs and sites, such as toilets, change rooms, first aid, drinking water, washing facilities, machine guarding, stacking and packing, ladders, fire prevention, emergency response, ventilation, lighting, temperature, noise, asbestos materials, personal protective equipment (PPE), and training. These regulations, and a range of other relevant legislation, such as environmental and health laws, should be read with the Act.

The OHS Act is enforced by Department of Labour inspectors, who could also stop work, instruct employers to rectify hazards or risks, fine, or prosecute employers. The Act also applies to farm workers, retail workers, domestic workers, state and municipal workers.

Name duties of workers in terms of the OHS Act (3 points)?

OHS Act section 14 lists general duties of employees (workers) at work;
• Take reasonable care of his /her personal health and safety and of other persons who may be affected by his /her acts or omissions
• Cooperate with the employer on health and safety issues
• Carry out any lawful order, and obey health and safety rules and procedures laid down by the employer
• Report incidents, possible hazards and unsafe behaviour of fellow employees to management.

Anyone who acts in a reckless way, or damages safety measures, can be charged. If a worker does this damage on purpose, the employer can claim damages from the worker.


What are the employer’s duties under the OHS Act (10 or more points)?

OHS Act section 8 lists general duties of employers (management) to workers;
• Provide a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of employees
• Provide safe working equipment
• Take steps to eliminate or mitigate hazards and potential hazards to the safety or health of employees, before resorting to personal protective equipment
• Conduct risk assessments on jobs, to implement precautionary measures
• Train and inform employees regarding safe working procedures
• Prevent employees from working unsafely or in an unsafe environment;
• Ensure that work is performed and that plant or machinery is used under supervision of a person trained to understand the hazards associated with it
• Inform employees on their scope of authority.

Employers must also;

  • organise elections of safety representatives
  • consult with labour unions about safety representatives
  • train workers who use dangerous machines and materials, in correct handling
  • prevent workers from using or working with dangerous materials or machines, unless all safety rules have been followed, such as a hot work permit system
  • maintain dangerous machines, with guarding and lockout, in good working order
  • signpost hazards and risks with clear warnings, notices, and zone demarcation
  • appoint experienced supervisors
  • keep escape routes and emergency response materials accessible
  • treat injured people by securing the scene, first aid, and professional response
  • secure incident scenes for inspection and investigation
  • report injuries to state authorities.

Can a worker be punished for complaining about safety conditions?

Workers may not be punished or penalised for complaining about health or safety conditions. An employer cannot take action against any workers who:

  • give information about their conditions at work
  • give evidence in court about their conditions at work
  • respond to a request by an inspector
  • refuse to do anything that is against the law.

How are accidents and injuries reported?

Employers must keep a record of accidents, health exposures, and injuries in the workplace. The employer must report certain accidents or incidents to the safety representative and to the Department of Labour, such as release of dangerous material, gas inhalation, first aid, time off for treatment and recuperation from injuries. The relevant authorities are the Department of Labour, and Compensation Commissioner.

How many safety representatives must there be at work?

The employer must appoint one safety representative for more than 20 (21 or more) workers. There must be at least one representative for every 50 workers, therefore if there are 140 workers, there must be at least two safety reps.

The employer must explain to the workers’ organisation what responsibilities the safety representatives have and how representatives are elected.

How are safety committees set up?

In every workplace where there are two or more safety representatives, there must also be a safety committee. This committee must meet at least every three months. The committee must deal with all safety and health issues that affect workers. The safety committees have certain functions and powers.

What are the powers of Labour inspectors?

Department of Labour inspectors have wide powers to search a workplace, question people, inspect records, and ask explanations of employers.

An inspector can fine a person for breaking the Act. If that person wants to appeal, they can appeal to the Chief Inspector. They can appeal against the Chief Inspector in the Labour Court.

If a worker is hurt as a result of the employer not following a safety regulation, the employer can be fined up to R100 000 and /or two years in prison.

Obligations beyond legal compliance

The ability of an organisation to move beyond a legal compliance mindset is a test of its culture and commitment to safety. Legal compliance is a minimum requirement set by legislation, policies and codes of practice. Employers are also reponsible to shareholders and society.

Many compliant workplaces still harm workers’ health and safety. Organisations should strive for excellence in their work environment by sharing and implementing best practice, being practicable and effective, according to the ‘reasonable man’ principle.

Exam examples are not a course

This theme is divided into a series of posts, based on OHS exam theme sections. These extracts do not reflect a comprehensive training course, qualification or exam. Approaches and legislative elements differ in various African countries.

Sources; OHS Act. SA Department of Labour Compliance conference 2012.

Here are some links to 2016 updates relevant to the OHS Act:

OHS management exam questions


OHS Act Appointments & Ultimate Responsibility