Is a Legal Register Legally Required?
Written by Gerrit Augustyn
The question often put to me is whether or not it is a requirement to have a legal register in terms of the following:
- The Occupational Health & Safety Act 85 of 1993
- The Mine Health & Safety Act 29 of 1996
I will start by addressing the general meaning or understanding of a legal register by industry. In understanding what a legal register is I need to distinguish between a legal register and a legal library, both commonly used and confused. A legal library is either an electronic or hard copy of different Act’s and their Regulations that are populated to a designated website or to a hard copy library. A legal register in turn is interpreted by industry in general as a legal library that is broken down into specific legal requirements set on a specific client for a specific area(s) or a company as a whole. It is a general interpretation of the applicable law that states in layman’s terms what the client has to do to meet the specific requirement set in the specific section, subsection, paragraph and subparagraph. It is thus not only a copy of the relevant Act and Regulations but also an interpretation of the legal requirement set on the client in terms of that Act & Regulations. This is then applied to all legislation that is relevant to the client in terms of Occupational Health & Safety, Environmental and Quality Legislation.
In terms of the Occupational Health & Safety Act 85 of 1993 it is not a requirement to have a legal register as discussed in the paragraph supra. This is dealt with in the General Administrative Regulation (Published under Government Notice R929 in Government Gazette 25129 of 25 June 2003). In terms of Regulation 4 an employer only has to make a copy of the Act available to employees.
“4. Copy of the Act
Every employer with five or more persons in his employ shall have a copy of the Act and the relevant regulations readily available at the work place: Provided that, where the total number of employees is less than five, the employer shall, on request of an employee, make a copy of the Act available to that employee”.
A similar requirement is set under the Mine Health & Safety Act 29 of 1996. This requirement however still does not require an employer to have a legal register. The requirement is set under the Minerals Act Regulations (Published under Government Notice R992 in Government Gazette 2741 of 26 June 1970). Regulation 3.2 states as follows:
“ For the purpose of making known the provisions of these regulations to all persons employed in and about a mine or works, an abstract, authorised by the Chief Inspector, of the portions of these regulations directly concerning the workmen, shall be posted up in suitable places at the mine or the works, where it can be conveniently read, and a correct copy of these regulations or of such abstract shall be supplied at cost price to every employee, except to the illiterate persons contemplated in regulation 3.9, when engaged by the manager or his representative unless he is already in possession of the same. Every abstract posted up shall be in both official languages and in such other language as the Chief Inspector may prescribe”
I do not wish to discuss this aspect as a requirement or not under the International Standards (ISO 9001, ISO 14001 & OHSAS 18001) as conformance/accreditation to the three international standards is not compulsory in terms of the standards themselves or legislation. It could be set as a requirement in the vendor registration process of clients or contractors.
Although access to a legal library will be advantageous to specific individuals with the competence to deal with it I believe that organisations should empower and enable employees through training followed by inspections and audits to address the shortfalls and not merely having a system as a paper exercise for the sake of accreditation.