Health and safety practices are critical within the construction sector, which is why the new regulations have been introduced to serve the industry and all of its employees.

A strong health and safety record not only enhances a company’s reputation, but also offers savings by avoiding costs associated with failures and rework. For highly hazard-prone industries such as the construction industry, it is especially important that companies are able to provide a safe work environment while cultivating a strong safety culture within the organisation.

In South Africa, construction health and safety has long been the focus of attention for many industry stakeholders as safety records in the industry have not been at a desirable level. Accidents in the sector remain high while the industry continues to contribute to and account for a significant proportion of injuries and fatalities. To compound the situation, health and safety issues often take a back seat due the pressures of chasing tight construction deadlines.

For these reasons, the labour ministry recently revised regulations at legislative level to be more stringent in an effort to promote optimum health and safety in all phases of a project. The 2014 regulations place the obligations on a wider range of parties who are involved in construction work, including the client, the contractor, the designer and the principal contractor. By placing the responsibility on all these parties, the regulations aim to ensure that health and safety rules are enforced throughout the project and that all influential parties actively engage with each other to ensure compliance.

The new regulations now have considerable implications for employers in the sector. For the first time, all construction professionals in the form of health and safety agents, managers and officers are now required to register before working on any construction project. Furthermore, the regulations have introduced a new construction work permit system in which the client must lodge an application prior to commencing construction work. Construction may not commence until this permit is obtained, while tighter requirements for getting these construction permits have also been enforced.

As companies transition to the new regulations, it is important to note that all new projects that started after 7 February 2014 were given a six-month lead to comply, while new rules apply to all new projects.
 
Through this new legislation, the government hopes to root out non-compliance from the industry and foster a commitment from the industry as a whole. Health and safety remains on the radar until a noticeable improvement has been achieved in the industry. At an industry level, it is equally important that all players comply in an effort to protect their workforce. In addition, the new regulations are likely to eliminate fly-by-nights who do not play by the book, while ensuring that work is awarded only to deserving companies.

Acknowledgement and thanks are given to AfriSam for the information contained in this article.