Can you make employees 'pay' for PPE personally? – Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is an essential workplace requirement that plays a major role is protecting employees from health and safety hazards. Employees are obliged to wear PPE at all times where necessary or required. The question is who provides or pays this Protective Personal Equipment?

Section 8 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act stipulates under sub-topic, General duties of employers to their employees ?�: Every employer shall provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of his employees. Without derogating from the generality of an employer’s duties under subsection (1), the matters to which those duties refer include in particular, the provision and maintenance of systems of work, plant and machinery that, as far as is reasonably practicable, are safe and without risks to health.

This clearly indicates that an employer has the ultimate duty of providing employees, who work in hazardous places or places where risks has been identified, with the relevant PPE for that particular work. The employer should provide a safe working environment if not, purchase and provide to his workers the correct PPE.

However, the fact that an employer provides PPE out of his own finances should not give employees the power to use the PPE willy-nilly because they did not pay for it. Section 15 clearly states that, 'No person shall intentionally or recklessly interfere with, damage or misuse anything which is provided in the interest of health or safety.'

PPE is not an exception. Employees, according to the law, have the sole responsibility of taking care of their PPE in ensuring that it works well and effectively. My colleague, Johnny Terblanche, lately has given special dedication to writing intensely about the maintenance, care and handling of PPE in his blog. Some of the few PPE he discussed are:

  • Proper care of footwear.
  • Taking care of respirators.
  • Taking care of hard hats/safety helmets.

For employers not to suffer the financial pain of continuous having to replace PPE that has become ineffective due to misuse and abuse, they should consider putting up methods, policies or measures that will safe-guard PPE and its use. Remember, Section 23 of the Act stipulate that, 'No employer shall in respect of anything which he is in terms of this Act required to provide or to do in the interest of the health or safety of an employee, make any deduction from any employee’s remuneration or require or permit any employee to make any payment to him or any other person. ?�

One of the most effective ways of preserving and safe-guarding PPE is by ensuring that employees are trained about how to use PPE effectively and to their advantage. This will save companies a lot of money in replacing PPE as employees know exactly what to use, when to use it and how to use it. Another mechanism is to identify the risks in the workplace, where possible eliminate or minimize. It will go a long in saving a lot of money on PPE as the elimination of one risk may save a company from buying PPE for 100 employees.

Employers should be well vexed with what the law requires of them when it comes to PPE and are discouraged from requesting an employee to fork out money to pay for any PPE as it is a criminal offence. In turn, employers should also clearly make known to employees what is expected of them when it comes to PPE. That way, a lot of stress and finances would be saved.

Posted date: 8th Oct 2014
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