Protect yourself: report non-compliance at work

Friday, April 28, 2017

Ekurhuleni – As the world commemorates World Day for Safety and Health at Work, the Department of Labour has called on employees to be vigilant and report any attempts to compromise their health and safety at work places.

Speaking to SAnews during a campaign to celebrate the World Day for Safety and Health at Work held on Friday in Alberton, Director General for the Department of Labour, Thobile Lamati, said any attempt to compromise the health and safety of workers is illegal and must be reported to the department

“The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act is clear: employees have a responsibility to report any acts that seek to contravene the provision of the OHS, and workers must also protect themselves by refusing to work at an environment that is not safe,” Lamati said.

Held under the theme ‘Optimise the collection and use of occupational safety and health (OSH) data’, the World Day for Safety and Health at Work is an annual international campaign to promote safe, healthy and decent work.

The day, which is commemorated annually on 28 April, has been observed by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) since 2003.

According to ILO estimates, a worker dies from a work-related accident or disease every 15 seconds and every day, some 6 300 workers die from occupational accidents or work-related diseases, amounting to more than 2.3 million deaths a year.

Lamati said that it’s important for the country to reflect on how it is doing in terms of health and safety in work places.

“We want to improve planning to enable us to develop evidence based policies that would improve the lives of workers and work places,” said Lamati.

Lamati said the challenge facing the country is that the level of non-compliance within the provisions of OHS increases every day.

“In a week, almost two employees are fatally injured at the construction sites and that is unacceptable, every life matters. We need to ensure that we protect our workers, we need to work together as social partners to make sure that the welfare of our workers are protected.

“When one person loses his or her life, it impacts not only on the immediate family but relatives. The social impact of the injuries and fatalities on duty is huge and we need to work together to mitigate it so that workers are safe when they go to work. We want our economy to grow and also ensure that our workers are safe,” Lamati told SAnews.

Inspector General at the department’s Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES), Aggy Moiloa, said workers need to go to work and return safely home.

“They shouldn’t go to work to contract diseases or even worse, lose their lives,” said Moiloa.

Moiloa said that proper data is one of the most important things that helps the department to manage the work it does and the data also keeps the department abreast of trends in OHS.

She said it helps to put faces behind the data.

“It’s very easy to talk and put figures on injuries. When we talk statistics, we talk about people, and there is a whole lot behind those people.”

Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) Secretary General, Bheki Ntshalintshali, said while accidents are preventable at work places, the challenge is that due to a lack of funding, there are not enough inspectors to do proper inspections to make sure that accidents are preventable.

Commit to safety standards and rules

Compensation beneficiary George Mokoena urged workers to commit to safety standards and rules at work.

Mokoena, who lost his finger in 2013 at work, said that although he received compensation in 2016, it is painful to realise that he will live his life without that part of his body.

“I’m still not happy. Not because the compensation was not enough but when I look at my hand, I realise that the compensation will never replace my finger… I’ve lost it for good. When I have to do house chores at home, it haunts me, especially when I need to pick up something.

“Whether you are an employer or employee, strictly adhere to safety standards and rules and commit to them every time. I’m lucky I only lost my finger. Sometimes people lose their limbs and lives and no compensation can replace that,” said Mokoena. –