Although employers are under no obligation to transport farm workers, many farmers do provide transport. Farm workers can find it difficult to get to work because of the remote location of the farm, the lack of public transport, or the level of poverty in the rural area.
On 11 May 2017 it became illegal to transport school children in the goods compartment of any vehicle (for example the back of a bakkie). This is mainly seen as a big stride in the right direction with regards to the safety of our children on public roads. According to Regulation 50 of the National Road Traffic Regulations, no person is allowed to transport any other person in the goods compartment (back of bakkie/trailer) of a motor vehicle for reward. However there is good news for farmers who transport their employees. This regulation does not apply to a vehicle that complies with the provisions of the National Land Transport Act.
What is the risk of transporting farm workers?
- The employer may be held liable for damages (injury/death) caused by negligence while transporting farm workers, if the negligence can be proven.
- An accident that results in damage to property/injury to farm workers will affect the operations and productivity of the farm.
What does the law say regarding transport?
- The employer must be registered in terms of the Compensation of Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA);
- When employees are transported free of charge in a vehicle belonging to the employer and is driven by a designated employee, it is seen as during the course of employment in terms of COIDA.
- When workers are transported on a public road, The National Road Traffic Act states as follows:
- The driver must have a valid driver’s licence;
- The vehicle must be in a safe and roadworthy condition;
- The vehicle must be registered and licenced.
- The license will state the circumstances under which a farm worker may be transported on a bakkie/truck
- The part of the vehicle in which the workers are transported must be enclosed. Specifically, to a height of at least 350mm above the surface on which the workers are seated and at least 900mm above the surface on which the people are standing;
- The material must be strong enough to prevent a worker falling from the vehicle;
- The workers may not be transported with other goods (except their personal belongings), except when it is partitioned from them; and
- No part of the worker’s body may protrude from the vehicle;
- A trailer must have working lights and seven retro-reflectors.
When an employer provides transport to farm workers the minimum standards of the National Traffic Act must be complied with. If the vehicle enters a public road the rules of the road apply. Every precaution must be taken to minimize the risk when the workers are transported on a farm road.