If your employee refuses to wear his PPE because of health issues, here’s how to manage the situation so you don’t break the law

Ashley Churchyard, Fsp Business, 28 Jan. 2015

Tags: ppe personal protective equipment, oha act, health and safety laws

I recently heard a story about an employee who refused to wear his safety boots because of a health issue with his feet. Apparently, he had a skin condition that made his feet itchy and swell if he wore closed shoes.

This put his employer in a difficult situation.

After all, the OHS Act says your employees must wear their personal protective equipment (PPE). But what if your employee simply can’t or won’t.

Well then, this article is for you because I’m going to tell you what to do if you’re in a similar situation…


Here’s what you need to do if your employee can’t or won’t wear his PPE

The OHS Act makes it very clear that your employees must wear their PPE at work. If they don’t, it means they, and your company, are breaking the law. 
So if your employee can’t wear his PPE because of a health issue you need to find a way to accommodate him so he can comply.  
After all, his health issue doesn’t give him the right to break health and safety laws.
So try to find a type of PPE that doesn’t affect your employee’s health issue. 
For example, if he has a skin disease that stops him wearing closed shoes, try find shoes designed for people with that disease. These should have good air flow and ventilation and be made from a non-allergenic fabric.
This way, you can make sure your employee is comfortable and safe. 
But what if he still refuses to wear his protective clothing, even after you tried to accommodate him?
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If your employee refuses to wear his PPE, you might have to dismiss him

Your employee has to wear his PPE to fulfil his job requirements. If he won’t wear his PPE, he can’t do his job.
This leaves you with two options:
1. Change his job responsibilities so he doesn’t have to work in an area where he has to wear that specific piece of PPE
For example, if he won’t wear safety gloves, move him from any machine work that requires him to wear them; or
2. If the first option doesn’t work, your employee can’t do the work you hired him to do. This means you might need to let him go.
If you have to use the second option, be very careful and follow the right procedures. If you don’t, your employee can take you to the CCMA for unfair dismissal.
To avoid this, I recommended you check out "You’re fired!” Your guide to substantively and procedurally fair dismissals
You must make sure you tell your employee wearing his PPE and following health and safety rules is part of his job requirements. 
There you have it. If your employee can’t or won’t wear his safety gear, make sure you follow this process to deal with it so you can comply with the OHS Act. 




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