The Protection and Promotion of the Psychosocial Health of Workers in South Africa and Nigeria: The Potential and Limitations of Occupational Health and Safety Regulation and Corporate Social Responsibility

Meryl du Plessis


The International Labour Organization’s 2016 Safety and Health at Work Day focused on risks to workers’ psychosocial health.  The evolving nature of work, increased global economic competition, precarious work, instant communications and technological advancements all impact workers’ psychosocial health.  It is imperative that management practices, occupational health and safety (OHS) regulation and corporate social responsibility (“CSR”) initiatives, which aim to regulate OHS, address psychosocial risks.  This paper will explore the OHS regulatory regimes, as well as the CSR frameworks, of South Africa and Nigeria.  These countries have the largest economies in Africa and are signatories to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.  The paper will inquire into the potential contributions, and/ or limitations, of CSR initiatives in protecting and promoting workers’ psychosocial health.  The potential of CSR in promoting occupational health and safety has been researched, particularly in developed countries, but it would be useful to further explore its role in the protection and promotion of workers’ psychosocial health.  We will consider how CSR’s focus on the business case and ethical case for promoting workers’ health can complement the self-regulation and other enforcement mechanisms provided for in occupational health and safety laws.  An OHS regime that is integrated with other management requirements under CSR, together with inclusive sustainable development programmes, may have positive effects on productivity and socio-economic development.