A Call to Revise Section 8(2)(e) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act to include Crisis Risk Communication
Authors Terrence R Carney, Nina Mollema
Affiliations: Senior lecturer in Afrikaans Linguistics, College of Human Sciences, UNISA; Associate Professor in Criminal and Procedural Law, College of Law, UNISA
Source: Industrial Law Journal, Volume 40 Issue 3, 2019, p. 1441 – 1456
This article gauges s 8 of South Africa’s Occupational Health and Safety Act and highlights its lack of clarity and prescriptive guidelines on crisis risk communication. Paragraph 8(2)(e) specifically obliges employers to provide information and training to ensure a safe and healthy working environment. However, the Act neither defines the words ‘communication’ and ‘information’ nor does it clearly provide for the dissemination of information during a crisis, like industrial action, which affects many employees simultaneously. The #FeesMustFall and insourcing protests that occurred at universities across the country during 2015-2016 are a good example of this. The protests compelled universities to send out text messages as a means of communicating with their staff and students. Though crisis risk communication theory expects messages to provide clear and straightforward directives, some messages were vague. This begs the question whether an institution must simply provide information to comply with the law, or whether clear directives should be the only legal standard. Subsection 8(2)(e) of the Act provides little insight. With the above in mind, this article suggests best practice criteria for crisis risk communication and a proposed reformulation of s 8(2)(e).