Employers compelled to provide safe work environment for their employees

In a case last year, The Supreme Court of Appeal delivered a judgement which provides for an employee to sue their employer for damages sustained outside of the boundaries contemplated by the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, 130 of 1993(COIDA).

In this case a female employee was raped by an intruder on hospital grounds. The employee was a doctor who was employed by the Free State Department of Health.  She did not attempt to get compensation from COIDA but opted rather to take civil action against her employer since, COIDA section 35(1) exempts the employer from compensating the employee (or dependants) for the recovery of damages in respect of any “occupational injury or disease resulting in the disablement or death of such employee” except under the provisions of COIDA.

The employer, believed that this was a claim for COIDA and that COIDA limits the employee’s common law right to sue the employer.

The Supreme Court of Appeal asserted that each case must be dealt with on its own facts, and forwarded that employees should, as far as possible, claim compensation that is due under COIDA.  In this case the parameter fencing was under repair, the elevator was non-functional and the lights were not working, thus making the environment dangerous to employees.

The court sent the message that employees especially, women, require that their employers provide reasonable protective measures against rape.

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