OHS training and legal requirements – Does health and safety training constitute to a legal appointment? The Occupational Health and Safety Act clearly stipulate about when and how a health and safety representative has to be appointed. This person will also require training to ensure the appointment is not only effective, but legal too.

Ultimately the responsibility for the health and safety of employees in the workplace is in the hands of the CEO but identifying problems, consulting co-workers and implementing solutions is something the CEO can leave up to an employee. The Occupational Health and Safety Act allows the CEO to appoint health and safety representative who should be appointed according to section 16 (1) of the OHS Act.

There are certain requirements and procedures that the law stipulates in relation to the appointment of a safety representative.

A legal representative needs to be nominated. Employees are entitled to nominate their safety representative according to section 25 of the OHS Act. They are also allowed to select and appoint more than one representative, after an agreement with the employer, to represent them in consultation with the employer on matters of safety, health and welfare at the workplace. It is important to note that the appointment of representatives should be done in accordance with the agreement as contemplated in the General Administrative Regulations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

A nominated safety representative has some requirements he should meet before he is approved. He should be an employee who is familiar with the workplace and the hazards that can affect health and safety in the workplace. The representative is also expected to take note of the welfare of employees. This will help him significantly in executing his duties.

Also, representatives form part of an important link between management and the rest of the organisation hence, the nominated persons should be possession of excellent communication skills. The scope of their job requires them to liaise, negotiate and debate on behalf of employees with the employer. Although the level or understanding of communication skills is not a legal requirement, it comes as an added advantage if the representative has those skills.

After a nomination has been made, an employer is obliged by the law to send the nominee for training in the field of safety and health. Such training is expected to equip the representative with the right skills to carry out his duties. Training is a legal requirement for one to be deemed a competent representative. Considering the complexity of health and safety in the workplace these days, even employees who have been involved in the trade, or with the particular company for years, still cannot rely on the knowledge and skills they acquired over those years to be considered as an appropriate health and safety representative.

On the completion of a successful training, an employer can officially appoint the trained safety representative. This will have to be done in writing. In the appointment letter the employer will have to specify the length of the appointment. A copy of the appointment letter is then issued to the appointed safety representative.

Only once all the above steps have been followed then a company can claim they have legally appointed a health and safety representative. Training alone, even when a learner passes with flying colours, does not constitute to a legal appointment. Training is essential in matters relating to health and safety. But from a legal point of view it will not be enough.

Posted date: 12th Dec 2014
Latest News - Health and Safety Training - Legislation

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