Labour Minister appeals for safer workplaces

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Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi has called on all role players to ensure a workplace free of incidents and disease.

“We have to work with organised business to ensure compliance and to assist them to act as responsible citizens. This is especially the case in the majority of workplaces, which remain unionised,” he said on Thursday.

The Minister was addressing the second day of the department’s Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Conference held in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng.

In his address, Nxesi highlighted the importance of reaching Vision Zero, which is a workplace that is safe and free of disease, whereby labour and organised labour have key roles to play.

Nxesi said unions and shop stewards also need to rise to the occasion to safeguard the conditions of their members and to report non-compliance.

“That also means inspectors have to respond timeously and effectively to compliance,” he said.

He told those attending the three-day conference that achieving Vision Zero means moving towards a trained health and safety officer in every workplace. In high-risk sectors like mining and construction, this has assisted in reducing the statistics for injuries and fatalities.

The department provides a raft of services that can be tailored to individual sectoral needs. Services available include the development and amendment of regulations, policies and guides, as well as to work with stakeholders to provide training among others.

Nxesi said South Africa requires trained OHS inspectors of a high calibre that display competence in knowledge, skills and the requisite experience.

“We require OHS inspectors of a high calibre who have been fully trained and are fully operational to service the clients of the department,” he said.

Speaking on technological developments, Director General of the department Thobile Lamati said not much has been done to prepare people for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“How do we respond to new risks and opportunities brought about by 4th industrial revolution?” asked Lamati.

Sanctions for violating OHS

Meanwhile, Director of Construction, Explosives and Major Hazards Installations (MHI), Phumi Maphaha, said a jail term would be proper punishment for those who violate OHS in the construction sector.

Maphaha, who presented the findings of structural collapse incidents, said jail time would send a strong message to contractors who are cutting corners.

He said according to 2016 statistics, there was an average of 12 500 construction sites in South Africa, involving some 1.4 million workers. He said that the industry was responsible for a substantial number of fatalities.

He said there was a need to go back to a drawing board and do things the right way. – SAnews.gov.za

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