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UNDERSTANDING EMPLOYEE DUTIES UNDER HEALTH & SAFETY REGULATIONS


In any workplace, health and safety regulations are paramount. They not only protect employees from harm but also ensure a productive and efficient working environment. While much emphasis is often placed on the responsibilities of employers, it's crucial to remember that employees also have a significant role to play in maintaining health and safety standards.


Here, we outline the general duties of employees at work under health and safety regulations sections 13 and 14 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993:


13. Duty to inform

Without derogating from any specific duty imposed on an employer by this Act, every employer shall—


(a) as far as is reasonably practicable, cause every employee to be made conversant with the hazards to his health and safety attached to any work which he has to perform, any article or substance which he has to produce, process, use, handle, store or transport and any plant or machinery which he is required or permitted to use, as well as with the precautionary measures which should be taken and observed with respect to those hazards;


(b) inform the health and safety representatives concerned beforehand of inspections, investigations, or formal inquiries of which he has been notified by an inspector, and of any application for exemption made by him in terms of section 40; and


(c) inform a health and safety representative as soon as reasonably practicable of the occurrence of an incident in the workplace or section of the workplace for which such representative has been designated.

 

14. General duties of employees at work

Every employee shall at work—


(a) take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions;


(b) 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;


(c) 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;


(d) if any situation that 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; and


(e) 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.


Employees have several key duties regarding health and safety in the workplace:

  • Taking care of personal health and safety: This includes following safety procedures, using equipment correctly, and attending relevant health and safety training provided by their employer.

  • Cooperating with employers: Employees should provide feedback on safety procedures, report hazards, and follow instructions regarding health and safety.

  • Using equipment and machinery correctly: Employees must follow all training and instructions provided by their employer and report any faults or issues with equipment immediately.

  • Employees have the right to refuse unsafe work if they have reasonable grounds to believe it presents an imminent and serious danger to their health and safety. This refusal must be reported immediately to the employer or supervisor.

  • Employees should not engage in any act or omission that could endanger themselves or others in the workplace. This includes actions like horseplay, practical jokes, or other reckless behaviors.

  • Employees should participate in any workplace health and safety committees or joint health and safety representative consultations, providing input and suggestions for improving safety measures.

  • Employees should be familiar with emergency procedures, such as evacuation plans, fire drill protocols, and the location of first aid kits and emergency equipment.

  • Employees have the responsibility to maintain good housekeeping practices in their work area, ensuring it is clean, tidy, and free from potential hazards or obstacles.

  • In some industries or workplaces, employees may be required to undergo regular medical examinations or health assessments to ensure their continued fitness for specific job roles or tasks.

  • Employees should encourage their co-workers to follow safety protocols and procedures and should report any observed safety violations or concerns to their supervisor or employer.

  • Reporting incidents: Employees have a duty to report any hazards, near misses, accidents, or incidents to their employer or supervisor promptly.

  • Following health and safety procedures: This involves wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), following safe work practices, and participating in safety drills and training sessions.

  • Using personal protective equipment (PPE) correctly: Employees must use any PPE provided by their employer correctly and consistently.

  • Not interfering with safety measures: Employees should not interfere with or misuse any safety equipment or measures put in place by the employer.

  • Attending health and safety training: Employees should attend training sessions provided by the employer to understand and implement safety procedures.

  • Informing the employer of health changes: Employees should inform their employer of any changes in their health that may affect their ability to work safely.

  • Participating in risk assessments: Employees should provide feedback to their employer on potential hazards or risks identified during risk assessments and work together to find solutions to mitigate these risks


The fulfillment of employees' general duties and their collaborative approach with employers are essential components in sustaining comprehensive health and safety measures within the workplace. When employees diligently carry out these responsibilities, which involve exercising prudent care for personal and collective well-being, adhering to established protocols, promptly reporting potential hazards, and properly utilizing protective equipment, they actively contribute to cultivating a secure and productive professional environment that benefits the entire workforce.



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