The role and functions played by Health and Safety Representatives is valuable to all employers. Health and Safety Representatives have various Health and Safety responsibilities, which if carried out properly in line with legal requirements, will assist the employer in providing and maintaining a healthy and safe workplace.
Appointing Health and Safety Representatives
Employers who have more than 20 employees in their employment at any workplace, must a Health and Safety representative in writing for the workplace for a specified period. The law further states that an employer must have at least one Health and Safety representative for every 50 employees (e.g. 51 employees requires two Health and Safety representatives). Only employees employed in a full-time capacity (permanently), shall be eligible for designation as a Health and Safety representative.
The appointment letter (the Section 17.1 Health and Safety Representative Appointment Letter) should contain the following information:
- Date of Appointment
- Name and Surname of the Health and Safety Representative
- Area of responsibility
- Period for which appointed
- Duties as stipulated in Section 18 of the OHSA
- Signed by the employer (signed by the 16.1 CEO/Ultimate responsible person or the 16.2 Assistant CEO/Designated ultimate responsible person)
- Must be signed by the Health and Safety representative
Facilities assistance and training:
It is the employer’s duty to ensure that Representatives are properly empowered to perform their duties as health and safety representatives. Representatives must be trained during working hours.
Inspection intervals are not specified. Representatives have been given direct access to the inspectorate, are entitled to attend incident investigations and enquiries, inspect documents and participate in health and safety audits.
All appointed Health and Safety Representatives empowered to:
- Conduct health and safety audits
- Identify potential hazards, risks and dangers
- Investigate incidents
- Make recommendations regarding health and safety
- Conduct inspections
- Attend health and safety committee meetings
Functions of Representatives
Representatives may perform:
- Review effectiveness of health and safety measures
- Identify potential hazards and major incidents
- Examine causes of incidents
- Investigate complaints
- Advise the committee and the employer
Representatives shall be entitled to:
- Visit incidents sites and attend inspections
- Attend any investigation or formal inquiry
- Inspect any document related to health and safety matters
- Accompany an inspector
- Be accompanied by technical advisor if approved by the employer
- Participate in internal audits
A representative shall not incur any civil liability if he failed to do anything which he may do or is required to do.
Communicating with safety representatives:
Good communication is essential for the success of any safety, health and environmental system within an organisation. Proper and official channels should be created and maintained to ensure effective communication. The line manager or foreman should always encourage communication. This could be done by asking employees and safety representatives what hazards they are aware of. Toolbox talks, inspection lists and the use of suggestion box could be used during this process. Internal reports and complaints from workers could also be included and used for this purpose.
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