Summary of the Compensation for Occupational Injury and Diseases Act, no. 130 of 1993 (With Amendments)
This Act, which used to be called the Workmen’s Compensation Act, sets up laws for the compensation of employees who are disabled because of injuries or diseases sustained or contracted at work. It also sets up compensation laws in the event that a worker dies because of work-related injury or disease.
 Who Does This Act Apply To?
All employers; and casual and full-time workers (including seaman and airman) who, as a result of a workplace accident or work-related disease are injured, disabled, or killed, or become ill. This excludes:
- workers who are totally or partially disabled for less than 3 days,
- domestic workers,
- anyone receiving military training,
- members of the SANDF, or SAPS,
- any worker guilty of wilful misconduct, unless they are seriously disabled or killed,
- anyone employed outside South Africa for 12 or more continuous months, and
- workers employed mainly outside South Africa and only temporarily employed here.
According to the Act (referred to as COIDA), compensation is payable to employees or their dependants for:
- A worker’s death due to work-related injury or disease
- Permanent Disablement which is the permanent inability of an employee to perform any work or as a result of and accident or occupational disease. (An example of permanent disability would be the loss of a limb, the eyes or hearing.)
- Temporary Disablement. Where an employee is prevented by injury or illness from performing his regular duties for a time, and where there is an expectation that he will recover fully in time, she will be entitled to receive compensation for the time she is temporarily disabled. Temporary Disablement is further categorised as either total disablement (for example being comatose) or partial (losing the use of an arm for a time).
- Funeral expenses are paid up to the actual amount of the costs, or to the
maximum amount in place at the time, whichever is less.
In essence, the Act is compulsory insurance cover for employers in case any of their workers die, sustain an injury or contract an occupational disease during the course of their employment.
 Who Governs the Act?
The Act is administered by the Director-General of the Department of Labour, helped by Compensation Commissioners and staff, various assessors, the Compensation Board and the Constitution Board, and money for compensation is provided by the Compensation Fund and the Reserve Fund.
The Director-General investigates accidents and occupational diseases and makes the final decisions (on compensation, the calculations, degree of disablement, etc.) on cases brought before him or her. In order to do this job, the Director-General has the right to subpoena relevant persons and to call for information. The Director-General can also delegate any of his or her powers to Compensation Commissioners, and he or she has the right to contract any person to fulfil a particular function.
Assessors (including medical assessors) help the Director-General in hearing cases, and they represent the interests of employees and employers. An equal number of assessors must be appointed for each party.
 Rights and Duties of Employers
All employers conducting business in South Africa must register with the Compensation Commissioner, and they must keep a record of workers’ earnings.
Employers will be assessed by the State, and compensation tariffs will be calculated according the category of their business and their history of work-related accidents and occupational diseases. Business less likely to result in work-related accidents will pay lower tariffs.
 What Are Employees’ Rights if They Are Injured at Work?
If a person has a work-related injury, he or she is entitled to benefits to compensate for medical or other related costs. If a person dies because of a work-related injury, his or her dependant/s may be entitled to benefits.
But if a worker knowingly withholds information about a previous work-related injury or disease from an employer, or if a worker’s death or disability arises because of their refusal or neglect to seek medical help, then the State may decide not to award any benefits. A worker (or dependant) cannot claim compensation from the State and take legal action against an employer. But in the case of third-party accidents (i.e. accidents involving a person not related to the employer) workers can both claim compensation and take legal action against the third party. The State and the employer can also take action against a third party for recovery of any compensation paid.
 Claiming Compensation
There are a number of procedures that must be followed before compensation will be granted, if at all:
- If a worker is injured at work, he should inform their employer as soon as possible. Although the Act allows for the possibility that reporting incidents may be impossible for some time, employees must report injuries to the employer within twelve months. No claims will be considered if they are not reported within twelve months after the occurrence.
- The employer must then report the injury to the State within seven days of receiving notice of an accident. An employer who fails to do this will be guilty of an offence.
- The State will then make an inquiry into accident. All employees and employers must submit any relevant information about the incident, and workers must be medically examined by a doctor appointed by the State. (The worker may have his or her own doctor present at the examination.) The cost of the examination is to be paid for by the employee.
- A claim for compensation is lodged on behalf of the employee.
- The State will assess the claim and, if necessary, a formal hearing will be held. If a hearing is held, only legal representatives are entitled to fees. Compensation amounts will vary from case to case, and are based on the earnings of the employee at the time of the accident, the severity of the injury, and the minimum and maximum payments allowed by the State.
 What Are Employees’ Rights if They Fall Ill with an Occupational Disease?
Employees are entitled to compensation if they can prove that they have contracted a disease caused by their working conditions. The main work-related diseases are listed in Schedule 3 of the Act, and they usually result from exposure to substances, bacteria and disease. Workers who fall ill with work-related diseases must inform their employers as soon as possible after contracting the disease. As with occupational injury, the worker must claim compensation within one year of contraction of the disease; otherwise the right to benefits will lapse. The employer must inform the State within 14 days of receiving notice of the disease. Failure to do so is an offence in terms of the Act.
 What Are the Dependants’ Rights if a Worker Dies?
If a worker dies because of a work-related injury or an occupational disease, then his or her dependants may be entitled to compensation and funeral expenses (within limits). The compensation amounts vary according to the worker’s salary at the time, the number of dependants and their needs.
- It is an offence to influence or threaten a worker to do something that will deprive them of their right to compensation.
- It is an offence for an employer to fail to notify the Compensation Commissioner of a work-related injury or occupational disease.
- It is an offence to pay a person other than a legal representative to appear at a formal compensation hearing.
- It is an offence for an employer to deduct any money from money that is owed to a worker.
Persons convicted of offences will be liable to a fine or maximum imprisonment of up to one year.