There seems to be a bit of confusion regarding the job of Health & Safety Representative. The reason is that there are two Acts that regulates these persons.
The one Act is the Mine Health & Safety Act, and the other Act is the Occupational Health & Safety Act, which do not apply to Mines.
For this piece, I am focusing on the OHS Act.
A Health & Safety Representative is an employee who has been elected by the workforce in terms of a Sectoral determination agreement or Bargaining Council Agreement, and who is then designated by the management of the company for that purpose. The H&S Rep do not get paid for the role, but perform functions as part of the normal job they do at the company. The time spent on H&S functions are deemed to be time spent doing their regular jobs.
What can a H&S Rep do?
Many companies believe they have duties they must perform. But this is not quite true. They have duties they are allowed to perform, but it is not compulsory.
The main duty is to represent their workplace on a H&S Committee. Other duties include the right to perform inspections of the health & safety management efforts of the company. This includes checking up on the manager responsible for health & safety to see if he or she performs their duties.
The list of functions a H&S Rep may perform are listed in Section 18 of the OHSAct, 1993. These functions may however be extended through negotiations with the workforce or trade union.
The term of office, as well as the training needed is determined during the negotiations and once agreed, the reps may either be nominated or elected. The election process may also be negotiated. This requirement can be found in the General Administrative Regulations.
The bottom line is that a H&S rep is not part of the H&S Management team, but rather an enforcer of and negotiator for the H&S needs of the workers.
They also have a lot more teeth than generally understood. They can call on the Inspectors of the Department of Labour and request a formal inspection to verify compliance with the Act and regulations.
One Health & Safety Rep is needed for every 50 employees or any part of 50. But a rep is not needed if a company has less than 20 employees.
In the case of shops and offices, one rep serves 100 employees or part of 100.
For example if a factory as 51 employees, two reps are needed. If they have 140 employees, three reps are needed. In an office, one rep is needed for the first 100 employees and another for the 40 remaining employees.
I hope this helps.