Acts Online
GT Shield

National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act No. 107 of 1998)

Environmental Management Plan : Department of Labour

Chapter 2 : Mandate and Functions of the Department of Labour

2.4. Environmental Functions of The DOL



Co-ordination for the implementation of the EMP, is driven from the Branch:


Corporate Services in consultation with experts from Occupational Health and Safety Chief Directorate. Each Branch will need to have at least one staff member who is responsible for ensuring that within the functioning of their Branch, all the environmental initiatives that are introduced by the DOL are complied with (see section 5.1.9 where this is discussed in further detail).


Within the workplace environment, the inspection arm of the DOL is responsible for enforcing and ensuring that the contents of its legislation and regulations, as applicable to the environment, are adhered to by the employer.


These provincial offices carry out all inspection services that are advocated by the legislation and policies of the OHS ambit, including workplace environmental inspections.


2.4.1) NEMA Principles


The principles of NEMA serve as the general framework within which environmental management and implementation plans must be formulated.


The environmental functions of the DOL that are of key relevance to the EMP broadly fit into the ambit of the following NEMA principles as detailed below. Nema Principle (2)(4)(j)


"The right of workers to refuse work that is harmful to human health or the environment and to be informed of dangers must be respected and protected"


The mandate given to the Chief Directorate of Occupational Health and Safety is to ensure that the employer makes work conditions safe and healthy for workers, which is the basis of the occupational health discipline. This mandate however, excludes the health and safety of mineworkers, workers on load line ships, fishing boats and floating cranes. The protection of the health and safety of the general public from hazards related to work activities is also part of the Department's OHS mandate. The implementation of the mandate is realised by the provisions contained in the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Act 85 of 1993), and accompanying regulations of which the DOL is custodian. NEMA Principle (2)(4)(e)


"Responsibility for the environmental health and safety consequences of a policy, programme, project, product, process, service or activity exists throughout its life cycle"


Other important environmental management functions of the DOL lie within the regulations that the Department is custodian of. These give effect to some aspects of the Occupation Health and Safety Act.


Of particular relevance are the following:

Lead regulations (1991);
Asbestos regulations (1987);
Hazardous installation regulations (1998); and
Hazardous chemical substances regulations

As the custodian of the above regulations, the DOL has to develop health and safety standards to ensure that chemicals are not only used, processed or handled without risk to health and safety in the workplace, but also with regard to the transport and accidental spillage/release of these into the environment.


This has a great environmental impact and the management of this function is put into effect by the safe handling of these chemicals and emergency response procedures that should be in place to ensure that these impacts are minimal. The employer is responsible for ensuring that the safety procedures are in place for the various substances at stages such as labeling, packaging, transportation, storage and disposal, thus ensuring that the safety of both workers that are in contact with these, as well as the people and surrounding environment are protected from any potential adverse impacts. NEMA Principle (2)(4)(a)(iv)


Sustainable development requires the consideration of all relevant factors including the following:


"That waste is avoided, or where it cannot be altogether avoided, minimized and re-used or recycled where possible and otherwise disposed of in a responsible manner"


This principle is given effect through the disposal of substances, which fall within the ambit of the various regulations that the DOL administers. Provision is made within the regulations for the recycling of these substances, and where this is not possible, then for these to be placed into containers that prevent spillage and disposed of. In addition, the disposal of such substances must be carried out in accordance with the provisions as stated in the Environment Conservation Act (Act 73 of 1989), in such a manner that it does not pose a hazard inside or outside the site concerned.


It is through the inspection services of the DOL that monitoring of the above ensures that harmful wastes are disposed of in an appropriate manner. NEMA Principle (2)(4)(a)(viii)


Sustainable development requires the consideration of all relevant factors including the following:


"That negative impacts on the environment and on people's environmental rights be anticipated and prevented, and where they cannot be altogether prevented, are minimized and remedied."


This is once again given effect through the regulations' discussed earlier (section Preventative measures are advocated by the regulations, which allow for the negative aspects of these chemicals on worker's health to be taken into account and appropriate control measures implemented which may include proper respiratory equipment to be used, and protective clothing to be worn, to reduce and prevent adverse effects. In addition, these regulations require that the release of some of these substances into the atmosphere must comply with the requirements of the Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act (Act 45 of 1965). NEMA Principle (2)(4)(l)


"There must be intergovernmental co-ordination and harmonization of policies, legislation and actions relating to the environment"


As discussed (Chapter 4), the DOL has given effect to this principle, by producing this EMP as required by NEMA, and also through participatory mechanisms that have ensured the involvement of national government departments and other stakeholders in the development of various pieces of legislation that are relevant to broad environmental management. The DOL is also represented on the CEC. NEMA Principle (2)(4)(p)


"The costs of remedying pollution, environmental degradation and consequent adverse health effects and of preventing, controlling or minimizing further pollution, environmental damage or adverse health effects must be paid for by those responsible for harming the environment."


If an employer is found to contravene any of the regulations administered by the DOL, the employer will be subjected to a fine that will hold him/her responsible for failing to undertake the correct preventative actions as stipulated in the various pieces of legislation or regulations.


Aspects that relate specifically to the NEMA principles discussed are all related to the overarching ambit of securing the health and safety of the environment to which workers are exposed as well as the potential impact on the environment as a result of the activities in the workplace.


2.4.2) Indirect linkages between the functions of the Department of Labour and the environmental sector


Other general functions of the DOL are not described in any further detail in this report, as their relevance to the environmental management functions of the DOL are minimal. However, DOL functions that are seen as potentially having environmental and sustainability linkages are briefly discussed below. Programme: Employment and Skiffs Development Services


It is recognised by the DOL that the skills profile of South African workers does not match the current or future labour market needs and it consequently contributes to poor performance of industries, low levels of investment and low levels of multi-factor productivity in the economy. This requires national intervention to strengthen the link between education and training on the one hand and economic growth and employment on the other.


The Skills Development Act, (Act 97 of 1998) and the Skills Development Levies Act, (Act 9 of 1999) aim to contribute towards the resolution of the above mentioned problems.


The SETAs that would be appropriately regarded as promoting the training and education within the environmental management sector are as follows:

Forest Industries Education and Training Authority;
Primary Agriculture Education and Training Authority;
Secondary Agriculture Sector Education and Training Authority; and
Tourism and Hospitality Education and Training Authority


For example, the tourism and hospitality education and training authority, has a conservation and guiding component. This component is involved in training within the following:

wildlife parks, game reserves and zoological establishments;
camp and conservation park management;
trekking and safari operators;
botanical gardens;
conservation tourism;
community tourism; and
guides within all aspects of tourism, e.g. field, river, etc.


The DOL plays a fundamental role in the promotion of skills within each identified market sector, by providing the necessary funding for such ventures, which is supplemented by the financial inputs through each SETA. Compensation Fund


The Compensation Fund serves to provide for compensation for disablement caused by occupational injuries or diseases sustained or contracted by employees in the course of their employment, or for death resulting from such injuries or diseases; and to provide for matters connected therewith. In addition, the Fund also provides care and benefits for occupational illness or injury in employment and promotes a healthy and safe work environment.


It is through some of the above mentioned mechanisms that the cumulative negative effects on the environment related to the Labour sector, are reduced.