The duties of Health and Safety Representatives are very often misdirected. The limited duties are summarised as follows:
a. Review the effectiveness of the health and safety program

b. Identify potential hazards and potential incidents in the workplace

c. In conjunction with the employer examine the causes of incidents in the workplace.

d. Investigate health and safety related complaints by employees

e. Make representation to the employer, the H&S Committee or to an inspector.

f. Make representation to the employer on general matters affecting the health and safety of the employees.

g. Inspect the workplace in its entirety with a view to the health and safety of employees. This must be done at reasonable intervals and be discussed with the employer.

h. Participate in consultations with inspectors at the workplace and accompany such an inspector on an inspection of the workplace.

i. Receive information from inspectors.

j. In his / her capacity as a H&S representative attend meeting of the health and safety committee of which he / she is a member.

k. Be entitled to visit an incident at all reasonable time and attend any inspection in loco.

l. Attend any investigation or formal inquiry held in terms of the Act.

m. Within reason, inspect any document which the employer is required to keep in terms of the Act (e.g. Risk Assessments, Registers and Air Monitoring etc.)

n. With the approval of the employer, be accompanied by a technical adviser on any inspection.

o. Participate in any internal health and safety audit.

The employer shall provide such facilities, assistance and training as may reasonably be required.

The health and safety representative shall not incur any civil liability by reason of the fact that he failed to do anything which may do, or is required to do in terms of the Act.

Health and Safety Representatives should not be used to dish out punishment or take corrective action on another employee. That remains the responsibility of Management.

Written by Frans Wilbrink of Wilbrink & Associates, tel. 031 – 266 9035