The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act contained in the OHS Bill 2020 has recently been released by Cabinet for comment. The proposed changes and new penalties have an impact on building owners and managing agents on how they can be compliant.

Photo by Evac+Chair South Africa

Photo by Evac+Chair South Africa

The proposed OHSA Amendment, which marks as the first modification since it was published in 1993, has a significant impact not only on employers but on how building owners and managing agents create a safer environment for people with mobility impairments.

The OHS Act under section 8 in relation to building owners, emphasises that they have a responsibility towards the safety of residents by ensuring that when they are conducting a building risk assessment, they identify people who would require assistance, in case of an emergency and provide the equipment necessary to accomplish it.

The amendment further proposes that if building owners fail to comply to the above proposed standard, it can lead to an imposed maximum fine of R5 000 000 or 5 years of imprisonment.

“As a person living with a mobility impairment, I welcome the new amendments because it will help encourage more employers and building managers to ensure that their working or living environment is safe and caters for people with mobility impairments as well,” said Gavin Glass, CEO of Evac+Chair South Africa.

It is important to note that for every person who enters a building, they are entitled to a safe environment. Section 9 of the amendment bill outlines that building managers have a responsibility towards the safety of persons other than the employees. This directs building owners to ensure that an emergency evacuation plan is in place, and it accommodates tenants and visitors with mobility impairments as well.

Gavin Glass further adds that “The changes to the OHS Act is going to improve the lives of the Mobility Impaired and gives them far more confidence in multi-storied buildings they reside or work in. Their buildings will have to undergo a risk assessment which will identify those who need assistance in the case of an emergency with an evacuation plan in place to assist them to evacuate the building.”

The OHS act also mentions that it is the responsibility of employers, in this case the building owners and managing agents, to inform employers or residents about potential risks, hazards and the risk management plans that are present in the building or workplace. This can be through notice boards, safety signs, newsletters, and internal staff training.

The amendments aim to encourage and increase safety measures not only in the workplace but also in general multi-storied buildings. Building owners, managers, residential tenants, and employees stand to benefit from OHSA bill as it can assist in protecting the wellbeing of people and prepare for any emergency evacuation.