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Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1993 (Act No. 85 of 1993)

32. Formal enquiries


(1) The chief inspector may, and he shall when so requested by a person producing prima facie evidence of an offence, direct an inspector to conduct a formal inquiry into any incident which has occurred at or originated from a workplace or in connection with the use of plant or machinery which has resulted, or in the opinion of the chief inspector could have resulted, in the injury, illness or death of any person.


(2) For the purposes of an inquiry referred to in subsection (1) an inspector may subpoena any person to appear before him on a day and at a place specified in the subpoena and to give evidence or to produce any book, document or thing which in the opinion of the inspector has a bearing on the subject of the inquiry.


(3) Save as is otherwise provided in this section, the law governing criminal trials in magistrates' courts shall mutatis mutandis apply to obtaining the attendance of witnesses at an inquiry under this section, the administering of an oath or affirmation to them, their examination, the payment of witness fees to them and the production by them of books, documents and things.


(4) Any inquiry under this section shall be held in public: Provided that the presiding inspector may exclude from the place where the inquiry is held, any person whose presence is, in his opinion, undesirable or not in the public interest.


(a) The presiding inspector may designate any person to lead evidence and to examine any witness giving evidence at a formal inquiry.
(b) Any person who has an interest in the issue of the formal inquiry may personally or by representative, advocate or attorney put such questions to a witness at the inquiry to such extent as the presiding inspector may allow.
(c) The following persons shall have an interest as referred to in paragraph (b), namely—
(i) any person who was injured or suffered damage as a result of the incident forming the subject of the inquiry;
(ii) the employer or user, as the case may be, involved in the incident;
(iii) any person in respect of whom in the opinion of the presiding inspector it can reasonably be inferred from the evidence that he could be held responsible for the incident;
(iv) a trade union recognized by the employer concerned or any trade union of which a person referred to in subparagraph (i) or (iii) is a member;
(v) any owner or occupier of any premises where the said incident occurred;
(vi) any other person who, at the discretion of the presiding inspector, can prove such interest.


(a) An inquiry may, if it is necessary or expedient, be adjourned at any time by the presiding inspector.
(b) An inquiry adjourned under paragraph (a) may at any stage be continued by an inspector other than the inspector before whom the inquiry commenced, and may after an adjournment again be continued by the inspector before whom the inquiry commenced.


(7) An affidavit made by any person in connection with the incident in respect of which the inquiry is held, shall at the discretion of the presiding inspector upon production be admissible as proof of the facts stated therein, and the presiding inspector may, at his discretion, subpoena the person who made such an affidavit to give oral evidence at the inquiry or may submit written interrogatories to him for reply, and such interrogatories and any reply thereto purporting to be a reply from such person shall likewise be admissible in evidence at the inquiry: Provided that the presiding inspector shall afford any person present at the inquiry the opportunity to refute the facts stated in such document, evidence or reply.


(a) Whenever in the course of any inquiry it appears to the presiding inspector that the examination of a witness is necessary and that the attendance of such witness cannot be procured without a measure of delay, expense or inconvenience which in the circumstances would be unreasonable, the presiding inspector may dispense with such attendance and may appoint a person to be a commissioner to take the evidence of such witness, whether within or outside the Republic, in regard to such matters or facts as the presiding inspector may indicate.
(b) Any person referred to in subsection (5)(b) may in person or through a representative, advocate or attorney appear before such commissioner in order to examine the said witness.
(c) The evidence recorded in terms of this subsection shall be admissible in evidence at the inquiry.


(9) At the conclusion of an inquiry under this section, the presiding inspector shall compile a written report thereon.


(10) The evidence given at any inquiry under this section shall be recorded and a copy thereof shall be submitted by the presiding inspector together with his report to the chief inspector, and in the case of an incident in which or as a result of which any person died or was seriously injured or became ill, the inspector shall submit a copy of the said evidence and the report to the attorney-general within whose area of jurisdiction such incident occurred.


(11) Nothing contained in this section shall be construed as preventing the institution of criminal proceedings against any person or as preventing any person authorized thereto from issuing a warrant for the arrest of or arresting any person, whether or not an inquiry has already commenced.


(12) Upon receipt of a report referred to in subsection (10), the attorney general shall deal therewith in accordance with the provisions of the Inquests Act, 1959 (Act No. 58 of 1959), or the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977 (Act No. 51 of 1977), as the case may be.


(13) An inspector presiding at any formal inquiry shall not incur any civil liability by virtue of anything contained in the report compiled in terms of subsection (9).