Original Research

Small business barriers to occupational health and safety compliance

Elriza Esterhuyzen
The Southern African Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management | Vol 11, No 1 | a233 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajesbm.v11i1.233 | © 2019 Elriza Esterhuyzen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 December 2018 | Published: 01 August 2019

About the author(s)

Elriza Esterhuyzen, Department of Operations Management, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


Background: The Constitution of South Africa indicates that all people have the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health and well-being. This right is reiterated in the Occupational Health and Safety Act 83 of 1993. However, small business owners and/or managers experience specific barriers to occupational health and safety (OHS) compliance. The study was conducted in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape provinces of South Africa, as these three provinces account for 82% of active businesses in South Africa.

Objective: This article discusses barriers to OHS compliance as perceived by South African small business owners and/or managers.

Method: A total of 350 small business owners and/or managers from the three above-mentioned provinces participated in a questionnaire survey, with one section focussing on barriers to OHS compliance. Participants rated 11 predetermined barriers to OHS compliance and could indicate and rate additional barriers. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to report on these perceived barriers.

Results: Results indicated that the perceived barriers to OHS compliance can be categorised as human and resource barriers.

Conclusion: South African small business owners and/or managers experience barriers to compliance that prevent them from full compliance with OHS directives, which can be costly. Small business owners and/or managers need to take cognisance of applicable OHS directives as well as identified barriers to compliance. These barriers need to be addressed to allow small businesses to comply with OHS directives and to enhance the sustainability of small businesses. The question is not whether small businesses can afford OHS compliance, but if they can afford not to overcome barriers and comply.


Small business; occupational health and safety; OHS; barriers to occupational health and safety compliance; South Africa.


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