An employee’s safety obligations under the OHS Act
In the second of our three-part blog series demystifying the OHS Act, we are looking at what an employee’s legal obligations under this legislation are. Let’s dive in.
General duties of employees at work
If you're an employee, you should:
- Take reasonable care for your health and safety and that of other people who may be affected by what you do (or don’t do)
- Regarding any duty or requirement set by your employer (or any other person) co-operate with your employer by performing the requirement and complying with the law
- Carry out any lawful instruction given to you, and obey the health and safety procedures laid down by your employer (or anyone your employer authorises to do the same) in the interest of health and safety
- If any unsafe or unhealthy situation comes to your attention, then you should (as soon as possible) report the situation to your employer or to your workplace’s/section’s health and safety representative (who will then report it to your employer)
- If you are involved in any incident that may affect your health, or which has caused injury to you, report the incident to your employer/authorised personnel/health and safety representative as soon as possible, and not later than the shift during which the incident occurred (unless circumstances meant you could not report it immediately, and did it as soon as you could).
Your duty not to interfere with, damage or misuse things
No one will intentionally or recklessly interfere with, damage or misuse anything that is provided in the interest of health and safety.
Health and safety representatives
Only employees employed in a full-time capacity at a specific workplace, who know the workplace’s/section’s conditions and activities may be designated as a health and safety representative for that section.
All activities connected to the:
of health and safety representatives will be performed during normal work hours, and any time the employee (reasonably) spends in this regard will be considered time spent by him carrying out his employee duties.
Acts or omissions by employees (or mandataries)
It is an offence for an employee to act (or omit to act) in a way that contradicts your legal safety obligations, unless:
- In committing (or failing to commit) the act, you were acting without connivance or permission from your employer (or another such user)
- It was not under any condition or circumstances within the scope of your authority to commit (or fail to commit), the act, whether lawful or unlawful
- Your employer took all reasonable steps to prevent any act or omission of the kind in question.
If none of these can be proved, then your employer, or any such user, is presumed to have acted (or failed to act) and will be liable to be convicted and sentenced. If your employer (or similar person) issued instructions forbidding such an act (or failure to act), this will not be considered sufficient proof that your employer took all reasonable steps to prevent the act (or omission).
Whenever any employee (or mandatary) commits (or fails to commit) an act that directly opposes health and safety compliance:
- If you committed (or failed to commit) an act for your employer, you are liable to be convicted and sentenced as though you were your employer themselves.
- If you committed (or failed to commit) and act for an employer that isn’t the State, you are liable to be convicted and sentenced as though you were such an employer.
Department of Labour -Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of1993 as Amendmended by Act 181 of 1993