Why legalities should be left to a legal professional
With highly qualified staff and two decades of experience in the industry, Mark Dittke Attorneys offers specialised services in the fields of health and safety, environment and foodstuffs to simplify compliance with legislation and standards.
Countless acts, legislation, norms and standards govern the areas of safety, health and environment (SHE) in South Africa. These can be overwhelming to an occupational health and safety (OHS) officer – particularly as laws are constantly being amended. The answer to simplifying compliance lies with Mark Dittke Attorneys, a legal firm established in 1998 that offers all the services required to make these legalities easier to navigate.
For example, the firm offers legal compliance audits, which review the legislation applicable to a particular company and whether or not it is compliant.
“The failure to comply with a law may lead to criminal prosecution, which can result in imprisonment and/or a fine,” says founder Mark Dittke. Some of the environmental laws allow for a prison sentence of up to ten years and carry fines of up to R10 million.
Dittke continues: “A thorough audit will highlight any non-compliance issues so that the company can take the required action. Performing SHE legal compliance audits is one of the key aspects of our practice.
“The aim of each audit is to provide the client with a comprehensive written report discussing its compliance, or lack thereof. Our reports are not just a table or summary with photographs of findings (as provided by many other consultants), but are value adding and informative so that the company understands why it is not compliant.”
As Mark Dittke Attorneys has been contracted as an external auditor for the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), the firm has a wealth of knowledge to ensure clients remain compliant with standards such as the ISO 14001,
ISO 45001 and OHSAS 18001.
The client base of Mark Dittke Attorneys covers a broad range of industries including food and beverage, mining, transport, construction, agriculture and waste management. To assist companies to stay up to date with changes, the firm also offers online legal registers, tailor-made for each client. All laws are in full text and constantly updated.
“Besides providing clients with the actual laws, we compile summaries in plain and accessible language to make interpretation easier. The summaries further point out licences or permits required and other documentation that must be obtained from (or furnished to) authorities,” he explains.
The online legal register is particularly useful, as authorities tend not to widely announce amendments. Dittke notes: “This leads to widespread ignorance of legal obligations, which results in many companies unwittingly operating in breach of the law. We often come across companies that are surprised to hear a particular law has been in existence for some time
“To navigate this legal minefield requires constant monitoring of legal updates so that companies can take the necessary action.”
He adds: “This is why the legal registers and the audits are undertaken by our attorneys; who are specialised in environmental, health and safety laws. Besides this legislation, it is often the case that other legal fields also apply, including contract law, constitutional principles (such as access to information and the right to an environment that is not harmful to one’s well-being), criminal law and labour law.
“SHE laws can, therefore, not always be read in isolation, but should be applied within the broader South African legal framework. With the rapidly developing body of SHE law, it is important for companies to stay abreast of legal changes and appoint an experienced legal professional rather than a consultant with no formal legal training.
“Penalties are becoming increasingly strict, while legal requirements are getting more and more onerous and convoluted,” Dittke concludes. While the firm is based in Cape Town, it assists clients throughout southern Africa. For more information visit www.dittke.com.