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Occupational health and safety and labour issues

Health and safety

What health and safety regulations and procedures apply to oil and gas operations (upstream, midstream and downstream)?

Health and safety at upstream oil facilities is regulated primarily by the Mines Health and Safety Act (29/1996) (for upstream facilities). This statute is administered by the chief inspector of mines. In addition, with regard to offshore installations, the Maritime Occupational Safety Regulations, Marine Traffic Act (2/1981) and Maritime Zones Act (15/1994) may be relevant.

The Mines Health and Safety Act prescribes general duties in relation to:

  • health and safety;
  • reporting;
  • recording and investigation of incidents;
  • medical surveillance in certain circumstances;
  • fire precautions;
  • operating procedures; and
  • qualification requirements in order to operate certain equipment.

Furthermore, a number of SANS codes are incorporated by reference into this legislation and full compliance with the standards set out therein is required. 

Health and safety at facilities relating to the transportation of petroleum products is regulated primarily through the Occupational Health and Safety Act (85/1993). The Department of Labour administers the act and its regulations.

The Major Hazard Installation Regulations promulgated under the Occupational Health and Safety apply where the nature of the facility is such that it may pose a risk that could affect the health and safety of employees and the public. The regulations require, among other things, that a risk assessment be undertaken in order to identify the emergency measures and planning that must be in place in respect of the particular installation. 

Labour law

Are there any labour law provisions with specific relevance to the oil and gas industry (eg, with regard to use of native and foreign personnel)?

No specific legislative requirements relate to the employment of local personnel in the oil and gas industry. However, the model exploration and production right used by the Petroleum Agency states that the holder of the right shall employ South Africans with appropriate qualifications and experience, giving preference to historically disadvantaged persons, taking into account the operational requirements of the licence holder. The model right specifically states that the holder shall not be precluded from employing non-South African personnel if the required skills are not available in the local labour market. The model right also requires that licence holders report on the number of local persons (classifying by race and gender) and expatriate persons employed.

What is the state of collective bargaining/organised labour in your jurisdiction’s oil and gas industry?

South Africa has a strong collective bargaining environment, with several trade unions across various industries which are active in their respective sectors. 

The Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union is the largest trade union organisation in the oil sector. The union has traditionally dominated most petroleum refineries and distribution processes, and has a strong presence within the Sasol synthetic fuels operations and the PetroSA coastal gas to petrol operations.

The South African Chemical Workers’ Union has historically dominated Sasol’s operations at Sasolburg and has a majority membership at the National Petroleum Refiners of South Africa oil refinery – a joint venture between Sasol (which holds a 63.64% interest) and Total South Africa (which holds a 36.36% interest). 

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