SOUTH AFRICA. By Edwin Tshivhidzo – The Department of Labour is to train 50 union representatives on health and safety issues in KwaZulu-Natal by the end of November, in a bid to curb workplace fatalities.
The training will cover different aspects of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and prepare unions with the knowledge on how to develop a plan of action to implement health and safety measures in the workplace, the department said.
It will also include drawing up a framework for a Health and Safety agreement between both workers and employers.
The training is in response to a formal request from the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, a recognised trade union in the Iron and Steel sector that has an estimated 35 000 members in the Kwazulu Natal region.
The union which has shown a keen interest in Health and Safety issues in the province has requested the department to train 30 shop stewards, 17 organisers and 3 officials.
Last week, the union joined forces with labour inspectors in the province to inspect 655 employers in the Iron and Steel sector for Occupational Health and Safety compliance.
Out of the workplaces visited, an alarming 489 employers (75 percent) were found not to be complying with the law.
A total of 418 contravention notices, 23 improvement notices and 13 prohibition notices were served on non-compliant employers.
It was also found that 94 incidents were reported to the department by employers from those that were inspected.
â€œFollow up inspections will be conducted in all instances where notices have been served and if there is still non-compliance, there will be no hesitation from inspectors to recommend prosecution,â€ the department said.
Last week, Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana officially unveiled the Iron and Steel workplace inspection in Cape Town.
During the five day blitz inspection campaign that took place countrywide, Minister Mdladlana stressed the importance of workers playing a proactive role in ensuring their own workplace safety.
â€œSafety is the responsibility of everyone. Every year we spend billions of rands compensating injured workers through the Compensation Fund for accidents that could have been easily avoided.
â€œWhen injuries rise, production gets negatively affected causing profits to go down, which then results in jobs getting lost,â€ he said.
Earlier this year, the Department of Labour Director-General Vanguard Mkosana urged employers that the department is to intensify inspections of workplace law compliance throughout the year.
According to the department, iron and steel, construction, agriculture, food, drink and beverage sectors were the four main contributors to the 47 percent of reported workplace injuries and fatalities countrywide.
The department emphasised that OHSA requires employers to bring about and maintain a reasonable practicable work environment that is safe and without risk to the health of the workers.