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Duties of the Employers Under Section 15, Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) 1994


Section 15, Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 kicks of Part IV of the act with the following provisions:

Section 15. General duties of employers and self-employed persons to their employees.

(1) It shall be the duty of every employer and every self-employed person to ensure, so far as is practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of all his employees.

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1), the matters to which the duty extends include in particular-

(a) the provision and maintenance of plant and systems of work that are, so far as is practicable, safe and without risks to health;

(b) the making of arrangements for ensuring, so far as is practicable, safety and absence of risks to health in connection with the use or operation, handling, storage and transport of plant and substances;

(c) the provision of such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as is practicable, the safety and health at work of his employees;

(d) so far as is practicable, as regards any place of work under the control of the employer or self-employed person, the maintenance of it in a condition that is safe and without risks to health and the provision and maintenance of the means of access to and egress from it that are safe and without such risks;

(e) the provision and maintenance of a working environment for his employees that is, so far as is practicable, safe, without risks to health, and adequate as regards facilities for their welfare at work.

(3) For the purposes of subsections (1) and (2)-

(a) "employee" includes an independent contractor engaged by an employer or a self-employed person and any employee of the independent contractor; and (b) the duties of an employer or a self-employed person under subsections (1) and (2) extend to such an independent contractor and the independent contractor's employees in relation to matters over which the employer or self-employed person-

(i) has control; or

(ii) would have had control but for any agreement between the employer or self-employed person and the independent contractor to the contrary.

What is says, in plain English, is this:

As the employer, you are responsible to protect your employees from workplace-related risks and hazards. You should keep them informed of what they are working on. And in an event of an accident, you and your employees must know what to do.

The second clause (Section 15(2), OSHA 1994) goes on to suggest what form of actions must be taken by your employers. However, your employer is not confined to those suggestions. So, whatever your employer does, she must keep you as safe as possible in a hazardous workplace.

So what does s.15(2) proposes? Your employers need to:

  1. Make sure the equipments used are regularly checked, maintained and updated;
  2. Take necessary precaution, including providing personal protective equipment, when you are directly exposed to the materials used;
  3. Inform and train you on a regular basis, especially when there are changes in the production process;
  4. Maintain the workplace itself so potential accidents can be identified and avoided as much as possible - and if accidents do happen, know what to do; and
  5. Make sure the environment is as adequate as possible for you to work in. Besides that, your employers need to make sure you are fit to work in that type of environment.
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The third clause (s15(3), OSHA 1994) gives additional coverage to those dealing with your employers. In today's workplace, it's common for employers to engage individual and independent contractors. Now, your employer must ensure their safety just as much as yours.
Depending on your industry, you may need more sophisticated support and protection, especially when you're exposed to chemical, biological, radiological and physical hazards. With respect to those working in the office, the danger is not great.
Yet, in a developing society, even the lack of movement by stationary employees can cause harm! An example of the harm would be carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Here, ergonomics for the office may need to be applied to reduce the harm.
Some modern companies like Google and MindValley gives space for their workers for rest and recreational purposes. There's only so much you can do under stress. Unlike machines, the worker is much more expensive to 'replace'. A motivated and well-protected employee would be able to produce more.
This series, however, is not meant to replace the actual need for you or your employers to consult a legal practitioner. What we're doing here is but to simplify the legalese used in law so you can understand it better. It's rather ironic, if I may digress, that for something that would affect your livelihood, it's written in a complicated manner!

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