As a franchisee, what is my obligation and responsibility with regards to Occupational Health & Safety?

As an employer, you are responsible for maintaining a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of your employees while they are at work; this is as per the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act 85 of 1993 Section 8 — General duties of employers. Unfortunately not many franchisees truly understand their obligations and how to adequately fulfil these requirements.

Being party to a franchise arrangement does not lessen the health and safety obligations of the employer, and while Operations Manuals are generally silent on this subject and provide only limited, if any, information, it is imperative that franchisees understand the OHS act, its regulations and the importance thereof.

The Act outlines the duties of all those involved within the workplace. Generally, the duty of the employer/franchisee is to ‘so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain for employees a working environment that is safe and without risks to health’. In simple terms that means you must identify and address the risks associated with your employees’ safety. ‘So far as is practicable’ refers to much more than the cost of a particular safety solution; it must provide the highest level of protection for employees against risks to their health and safety. Your employees must always be your driving force when considering safety measures.

In terms of the Act and its regulations, employers/franchisees must:

Develop a health and safety policy
A health and safety policy that addresses the protection of employees must be in writing, signed by the CEO and must be prominently displayed.

Risk assessments
Risk assessments are the cornerstone to effective health and safety management. A risk assessment should cover all significant hazards (anything that could cause harm) and risks, whether specifically covered by legislation or not, and must be carried out at intervals not exceeding five years.

Incident/Accident investigation
Incidents/accidents resulting in injury must be investigated to determine the cause and a solution
must be provided to prevent it from happening again.

Safety inspections
Monthly inspections of the changes occurring in the workplace will enable a safer working environment and serve as proof for the inspector of the Department of Labour that inspections are carried out.

Health and safety audits are to be conducted annually.

Staff should be trained in such aspects as first aid and firefighting and employers who employ 20 or more workers must appoint health and safety representatives.

New employees must be shown how to do their jobs safely and correctly.

Preparation for emergencies
You must prepare for all types of emergencies that could occur in the workplace, including fires, floods, chemical leaks and medical emergencies. An emergency/evacuation plan for how to exit the workplace in an emergency must be drafted and should be explained to all employees and visitors.

Safety records and information
All safety records for training, medical records, maintenance, workplace inspections, first aid record books, chemicals safety data sheets, and incident/accident near miss documents relating to hazards, must be kept at the workplace for inspection from the Department of Labour.