First of all, Health and Safety Representatives (HS Reps) must ensure all employees wear their personal protective equipment (PPE). HS Reps are there for everybody's protection.
Let's look at the following example:
Vanessa's job was to pour acid into a vat in a manufacturing process plant. She has PPE and she knows to wear her PPE whenever pouring the acid. One day she was having a problem at home with her child and wasn't concentrating on what she was doing at work, she forgot to put on her goggles. Her HS Rep saw her, but didn't say anything.
While she was pouring the acid some of it splashed into her face and eyes. Vanessa had acid burns on her face and became blind.
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So what's at stake?
Keep in mind that as a HS Rep, their job is to ensure everybody wears their PPE while they work. By ignoring it when co-workers don't wear their PPE, HS Reps are being negligent in their duties. Do you really want to go home at the end of the day knowing that you could have stopped someone from being hurt?
Although HS Reps can't be sued in a civil court for damages, they can be labeled a criminal by a DoL enquiry and could pay a fine of up to R50 000 or be jailed for a year or both. The state can take them to court and they can get an even heavier sentence for failing in their duty. We call this gross negligence.
Here's how to protect yourself: Six things you should know:
1. If you see a co-worker not wearing their full PPE, stop them. Tell them to put it on.
2. If you don't want to be labeled a criminal, fined, or spend time in jail – look after your co-workers.
3. Before starting work, make sure everybody is wearing their PPE.
4. Check they're wearing it properly.
5. Make sure their PPE is comfortable. If it's not, report it so they can get PPE that fits better and is comfortable.
6. Do your PPE inspections every month to ensure your co-workers are using safe PPE.
Guilt is a terrible thing, it eats away at our minds – don't become a guilt statistic – keep your co-workers safe.
Although HS Reps can't be sued in a civil court for damages, they could pay a fine of up to R50 000 or be jailed for a year or both. They could be taken to court by the state and given an even heavier sentence for failing in their duty – this is called gross negligence.
So whenever you see a co-worker not wearing their full PPE, stop them and tell them to put it on!