Posted on: August 16, 2011 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 0

The SA Department of Labour (DOL) called chemicals employers to a seminar to reduce “rising occupational casualties”, in Vanderbijlpark on 8-9 Sep 2011.

The DOL Chemical Safety Seminar is hosted at Emerald Casino in Vanderbijlpark, Gauteng Province, starting at 8am on 8-9 September, a Thursday and a Friday, free of charge.

A rise in occupational health and safety incidents, losses, injuries and deaths in recent years, had prompted the DOL to host a Chemical Safety Seminar “on the state of the industry, to highlight measures which could be instituted to stem safety breaches”, said DOL health and hygiene deputy director Elize Lourens.

The seminar is the first major public sectoral intervention by the DOL since the appointment of the new Labour minister, Mildred Oliphant, late last year.

Chemicals blitzes planned

Director Lourens said “the rise in incidents was becoming a worrying trend… the chemical sector had now been identified as one of six high risk sectors… the inspection and enforcement branch had also identified the sector as another focal point in the current financial year when it conducts inspection blitz.”

Compensation Fund figures record 40 000 claims for injuries and diseases in the chemicals sector in the financial year ending 2011. About 32 000 chemicals sector claims were paid a total of R105-million.

Chemicals sector injuries are often serious resulting in workers “not being able to return to work, and leaving them partially of totally disabled if they live.”

“Every year many workers are injured, become ill or are killed because of exposure to harmful chemical substances” raising loss and medical cost.

“Assistance and guidance should be provided to employers and workers to promote a safe and healthy work environment,” Lourens said.  Escalating legislative requirements, penalties, and inspection blitzes, however, indicate that enforcement of more prescriptive regualtion would be a major part of the new DOL initiative.

Injury compensation claims rose to R2.3-b

Other “high risks industrial sectors” identified by DOL and its inspectors include iron and steel; transport; agriculture and forestry; building and construction; food, beverage and tobacco.

Figures by the SA Compensation Fund, an entity of the Department of Labour, showed that 872 720 claims were lodged in the financial year ending March 2011. In the financial year ending 2009, the Compensation Fund paid R2.1-billion in claims to employers and service providers, rising to R2.3-billlion in the financial year ending 2010.

The fund provides compensation for disablement caused by occupational injuries or diseases sustained or contracted by employees in the course of their employment, or for death resulting from such injuries or diseases among others.

Chemical Safety Seminar strategy presenters

DOL has lined up these presenters and delegates to initiate consensus on a strategy to reduce chemicals occupational incidents, fatalities, injuries and loss;

• DOL inspection and enforcement services (IES) deputy director general Siyanda Nxawe, on enforcement vision
• DOL health and hygiene manager Milly Ruiters, on high risk of chemical industries
• DOL health and hygiene deputy director Elize Lourens, on findings of a chemical sector blitz, and on criteria for asbestos contractor applications
• Chemical Energy Paper Printing Wood and Allied Workers Union (Ceppwawu) official Pelelo Magane, on chemicals health and safety practice
• Gauteng Health Department official Jaco Pieterse, on assessing chemicals health risks
• DOL official Kenny Fick, on chemical substances exposure prevention and hygiene
• Dr Bayanda Mbambisa of Wits University, on a case study into initial management of ocular chemicals burns in an academic hospital
• Responsible Packaging Management Association of SA (RPMAS) director Liz Anderson, on basic principles of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of chemicals labeling, handling, and container sheq management
• North West University lecturer Johan du Plessis, on occupational exposure limits for chemicals
• National Institute for Occupational Health official Ina Naik, on using Stoffenmanager software to measure chemical exposure hazards
• Chemical and Allied Industries Association (CAIA) official Louise Lindeque, on chemcials industry perspective of occupational health safety
• DOL official Jeaneth Masete, on practical handling and storage of hazardous chemicals
• National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH) official Adriaan Greyling, on air monitoring during asbestos work.
• DOL health and hygiene deputy director Bulelwa Huna, and DOL official Beverly Homan will summarise emergening consensus.
• Alvin Philips to chair day one.

Chemicals strategy delegates

About 300 delegates will attend the chemicals health and safety strategy seminor, including labour, employers, suppliers, sheq practitioners, SA Institute for Occupational Hygiene (SAIOH), occupational hygienists, occupational medical practitioners, and SA Society of Occupational Health Nurses (SASOHN).

DOL health and hygiene deputy director Elize Lourens, acting as spokesperson for the chemicals safety consensus initiative, is a member of the SAIOH executive.

Chemicals legislation to tighten

Legislation governing chemicals operators “will come under review in the next 18 months”, Lourens said. “The Importance of hazardous chemical substances monitoring could not be underestimated, when lives are at risk due to chemicals exposure and injuries in the workplace.”

• Register for the free seminar via Paballo.Nkhumane@labour.gov.za or 012 309 4408.

PHOTO; Since late last year, DOL minister Mildred Oliphant presides over a new wave of inspection blitzes, tightening legislation, and a calling to order of high risk industries.

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