Posted on: September 17, 2010 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 0

National Union of Metalworkers of SA, Numsa, launched a R2.7-m occupational health and safety programme in Johannesburg in September 2010.

The labour union said workers could not rely on labour department inspectors to enforce compliance to legislation. The first phase of Numsa’s health and safety campaign would cost R2.7-m, with more phases to follow.

In 2010 October, Numsa will empower 6000 shop stewards by workshops, manuals, DVDs, and posters. The programme is a departure from the traditional role of labour unions, who used to argue that they were not health and safety champions, but supported government, state authorities, and employers in occupational H&S programmes.

Shop stewards are asked to report violations, acting as an “army of health and safety reservists”, said Numsa president Cedric Gina, ensuring adoption of H&S policy and emergency plans, inclusive negotiations on election and training of H&S representatives, and access to labour department inspection reports.

Labour changes H&S strategy

Some employers have had cause to complain of low levels of involvement, commitment and support, from union representatives in H&S meetings, initiatives, and structures.

Numsa announced the new labour H&S programme on the 24 year anniversary of the Kinross mining disaster of 1986, South Africa’s worst gold mine accident.

Numsa president Cedric Gina said mining disasters “reaffirmed that safety and lives of workers were secondary to management’s pursuit for profits.”

At Kinross in Mpumalanga, 177 miners died when sealant foam caught fire during welding.

DOL inspection results

Labour department inspections in March 2009 at 2410 iron and steel work sites found that 1171 did not comply with health and safety legislation.

“Half of companies that inspectors visited, were breaking laws,” Gina said, yet employers did not go to jail for “negligence or violation”. Numsa remains “unhappy about mining working conditions”.

During the early 1990s, as many working days were lost due to incidents, as to strike action. Vital skills are also lost due to injury, sickness and death.

PHOTO; Numsa president Cedric Gina.

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