With regards to Safety Representatives, and why do we need them, and why do we train them?
We need to look in the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which instructs us that as employers having more than 20 employees, need to designate health and safety representatives.
Below are paragraphs out the legislation that refers to the above.
“Section 17 – Health and Safety Representatives
Subject to the provisions of subsection (2), every employer who has more than 20 employees in his employment at any workplace, shall, within four months after the commencement of this Act or after commencing business, or from such time as the number of employees exceeds 20, as the case may be, designate in writing for a specified period health and safety representatives for such workplace, or for different sections thereof.”
(4) “Only those employees employed in a full time capacity at a specific workplace and who are acquainted with conditions and activities at that workplace or section thereof, as the case may be, shall be eligible for designation as health and safety representatives for that workplace or section”
(5) The number of health and safety representatives for a workplace or section thereof shall in the case of shops and offices be at least one health and safety representative for every 100 employees or part thereof, and in the case of all other workplaces at least one health and safety representative for every 50 employees or part thereof: Provided that those employees performing work at a workplace other than that where they ordinary report for duty, shall be deemed working at the workplace where they so report for duty.”
The second part of understanding why we need to train our Safety Representatives is due to the functions of them, listed in the legislation.
“18. Functions of health and safety representatives
1) A health and safety representative may perform the following functions in respect of the workplace or section of the workplace for which he has been designated, namely –
(a) review the effectiveness of health and safety measures;
(b) identify potential hazards and potential major incidents at the workplace;
(c) in collaboration with his employer, examine the causes of incidents at the workplace;
(d) investigate complaints by any employee relating to that employee’s health or safety at work;
(e) make representations to the employer or a health and safety committee on matters arising from paragraphs (a), (b), (c) or (d), or where such representations are unsuccessful, to an inspector;
(f) make representations to the employer on general matters affecting the health or safety of the employees at the workplace;
(g) inspect the workplace, including any article, substance, plant, machinery or health and safety equipment at that workplace with a view to the health and safety of employees, at such intervals as may be agreed upon with the employer: Provided that the health and safety representative shall give reasonable notice of his intention to carry out such an inspection to the employer, who may be present during the inspection;
(h) participate in consultations with inspectors at the workplace and accompany inspectors on inspections of the workplace;
(i) receive information from inspectors as contemplated in section 36; and
(j) in his capacity as a health and safety representative attend meetings of the health and safety committee of which he is a member, in connection with any of the above functions.
2) A health and safety representative shall, in respect of the workplace or section of the workplace for which he has been designated be entitled to –
(a) visit the site of an incident at all reasonable times and attend any inspections in loco;
(b) attend any investigation or formal inquiry held in terms of this Act;
(c) in so far as it is reasonably necessary for performing his functions, inspect any document which the employer is required to keep in terms of this Act;
(d) accompany an inspector on any inspection;
(e) with the approval of the employer (which approval shall not be unreasonably withheld), be accompanied by a technical adviser, on any inspection; and
(f) participate in any internal health and safety audit.
3) An employer shall provide such facilities, assistance and training as a health and safety representative may reasonably require and as have been agreed upon for the carrying out of his functions.
4) A health and safety representative shall not incur any civil liability by reason of the fact that he failed to do anything which he may do or is required to do in terms of this Act.”
It is due to this list of legal requirements of the functions of a health and safety representative, that companies put their employees onto accredited training. So that the employer can have peace of mind that the employee underwent the training covering all the above. So that in the event of a dispute or, in a worst-case scenario, the employer can legally prove that the health and safety representative was fully competent to fulfil his duties. That should anything have been neglected, it could be acknowledged as negligence, and fault not be put onto the employer.
This is why we make use of accredited training providers, as they make use of courses set fourth by government. So that employees are trained up exactly how the government wants. So that in a legal dispute, the fact that the employee did not know what to do, can be taken out of the inquiry.
But that is worst case scenario, at the end of the day, a safer work environment for all of us is always the main objective, and by sending your employees on their training, further ensures that they are fully kitted out with the knowledge and expertise to do so.