Safety at work your own problem

Everybody knows that the employer has obligations to ensure safe working conditions but few recognise the obligations of the employee regarding workplace safety.

Everybody's right to a safe and healthy working environment is protected by the Bill of Rights in the South African Constitution. Internationally all governments have implemented Occupational Health and Safety Legislation. In South Africa the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Mines Health and Safety Act were implemented.

In both these Acts the responsibility of health and safety is distributed between the employer and the employee as well as any contractors on the premises. Should an employee disregards any health and safety rules, whether implemented by the employer's health and safety policy or by legislation, the employer has to take disciplinary action against the employee, and the employee may face dismissal.

R50 000 fine or imprisonment

If the employee is found guilty of tampering with or misuses any safety equipment installed or provided to any person by an employer or user, or fails to use any safety equipment at a workplace or in the course of his employment or in connection with the use of plant or machinery, which was provided to him by an employer or such a user he may receive a penalty of up to R50 000 or imprisonment of up to one year, or both the fine and imprisonment.

It is important to take note that failure to use any safety equipment at a workplace or in the course of his employment makes an employee guilty of contravening legislation. It is a disturbing fact that a very high percentage of employees are not using the personal protective equipment (PPE) that employers are supplying them with.

Employees should be aware that their reluctance to use PPE may be the cause that they have to sell their possessions in order to pay high fines or worse, that it may be the reason of their wives and children suffering because of their death.

Except for the use of PPE employees also have other obligations to occupational health and safety which include:

  • take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions;
  • as regards any duty or requirement imposed on his employer or any other person by this Act, co-operate with such employer or person to enable that duty or requirement to be performed or complied with;
  • carry out any lawful order given to him, and obey the health and safety rules and procedures laid down by his employer or by anyone authorised thereto by his employer, in the interest of health or safety;
  • if any situation which is unsafe or unhealthy comes to his attention, as soon as practicable report such situation to his employer or to the health and safety representative for his workplace or section thereof, as the case may be, who shall report it to the employer;
  • if he is involved in any incident which may affect his health or which has caused an injury to himself, report such incident to his employer or to anyone authorised thereto by the employer, or to his health and safety representative, as soon as practicable but not later than the end of the particular shift during which the incident occurred, unless the circumstances were such that the reporting of the incident was not possible, in which case he shall report the incident as soon as practicable thereafter;
  • no person shall intentionally or recklessly interfere with, damage or misuse anything which is provided in the interest of health or safety.
  • No person is allowed in terms of the occupational health and safety legislation to carry on with work if it has come to his attention that the work may create a danger to his or other people's safety and that such risk can be reduced by implementing proactive measures.

“Source: Labour Advice Workshop  -

More information:

Healthy Workplace

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