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What happens if a worker refuses to wear PPE?

Q: One of our workers always has his safety glasses on top of his head and only rarely wears them properly. Can I issue him with a warning or give him a letter not claiming responsibility if he gets injured? We are based in Melbourne.

A: Workers have obligations under work health and safety legislation in respect of their personal protective equipment (PPE), including safety glasses. Section 25 of the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 requires workers to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and to cooperate with their employer in respect of any action an employer takes to comply with their health and safety duty.Furthermore, section 25 states that workers must not intentionally or recklessly interfere with or misuse anything provided at the workplace in the interests of health, safety or welfare. Workers who fail to comply with these requirements may be prosecuted and are liable for a fine of up to $273,006. In order to enforce section 25, you will need to report the worker to WorkSafe Victoria.

Alternatively, a worker’s failure to follow lawful and reasonable directions may give rise to a right to summarily dismiss them. A direction in writing will be sufficient.

Please note: The answer is correct at the time of publishing. Be aware that laws may change over time. Refer to Duties of workers for current advice.

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