In short, YES, the Occupational Health & Safety Act applies to any organisation, including schools, because there is an existing employer-employee relationship. In addition, schools are the custodians of learners for a large part of the day, including sports events and extra-mural activities. One could say, that OHS in schools is of primary importance because of the guardianship of learners who may not yet know what an unsafe act is. It is absolutely vital that schools establish and maintain a first-class Occupational Health and Safety Management System.

What OHS principles typically apply to schools in South Africa?

Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) in schools in South Africa is governed by various regulations and guidelines aimed at ensuring the safety and well-being of both students and staff.

Legislation and Regulations: The main legislation governing OHS in South Africa is the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) of 1993. The Act outlines the responsibilities of employers, employees, and other stakeholders in ensuring a safe working environment.

Risk Assessment: Schools are required to conduct regular risk assessments to identify potential hazards within the school environment. This includes assessing risks related to facilities, equipment, activities, and the behaviour of students and staff.

Safety Policies and Procedures: Schools must develop and implement comprehensive safety policies and procedures. These should cover a wide range of areas including emergency procedures, fire safety, chemical safety, equipment usage, and handling of hazardous materials.

Training and Education: School staff should receive appropriate training on safety procedures and protocols. This includes training on how to respond to emergencies, proper handling of equipment, and awareness of potential hazards.

Facility Maintenance: Schools are responsible for maintaining their facilities in a safe condition. This includes regular inspections, repairs, and maintenance of buildings, equipment, and outdoor areas such as playgrounds and sports fields.

Emergency Preparedness: Schools must have emergency plans in place for various scenarios such as fires, natural disasters, and medical emergencies. These plans should be communicated to staff and students, and regular drills should be conducted to ensure everyone knows what to do in an emergency.

Health and Hygiene: Schools should promote good health and hygiene practices among students and staff. This includes providing access to clean water and sanitation facilities, promoting handwashing, and implementing measures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

Workplace Health Services: Schools should provide access to basic health services for staff and students, including first aid facilities and trained personnel who can respond to medical emergencies.

Safety Committees: Some schools may establish safety committees or designate safety representatives to oversee OHS matters and ensure compliance with relevant regulations.

Record Keeping and Reporting: Schools are required to keep records of safety inspections, incidents, and training activities. They should also report any serious incidents or accidents to the relevant authorities as required by law.

Overall, the application of occupational health and safety principles in schools is essential for creating a safe and conducive learning environment for students and a safe working environment for staff. Compliance with OHS regulations helps prevent accidents and injuries and promotes the well-being of everyone in the school community.

How will an Occupational Health and Safety Management System (OHSMS) benefit my school?

  1. The OHSMS will ensure that those responsible for the Health & Safety of your teachers, administrative staff, and all those employed by the school, are knowledgeable and equipped to manage health and safety risks.
  2. The OHSMS will ensure that everyone in your school is protected from Hazardous Chemicals, External Contractor activities, and even fires or other natural disasters, by ensuring that emergency response preparedness measures are active at all times.   
  3. The OHSMS will ensure that your learners will be aware and understand the risks, what are unsafe acts, and how to respond with possible vital life-saving principles in the case of an accident or incident.
  4. Should an incident / accident occur, your schools will be able to avoid penalties and possible imprisonment by demonstrating that you took all reasonable practicable steps to eliminate or mitigate the risks.


Contact us today for a “no obligation” on-site audit and discussion on how to go about implementing your own OHSMS and how we may assist you!

For more information on the above topic, please contact LabourNet Eastern Cape at Regional Support: 087 292 5808.

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Contact: Phikolomzi Malamlela (060 6428 659) at or Lindy-Lee Roseberry (066 038 5551) at or Robert Niemand (082 824 7359) at Visit our website at

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