By Edwin Tshivhidzo
Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana has called on employers to join forces with government to promote Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) in the workplace.
Minister Mdladlana was speaking at a two-day Occupational Health and Safety conference attended by senior government officials, private sector employers and union representatives.
The conference, held under the theme: Working together towards improving Occupational Health and Safety in high risk sectors of the economy, seeks to find better solutions in dealing with workplace injuries and fatalities.
It emerged during the conference that the transport, mining, construction, and food and beverage sectors always recorded high numbers of casualties and fatalities.
Addressing delegates, the minister emphasised that to save lives was every employers' responsibility.
"Occupational Health and Safety in the work place is an important aspect of business and cannot be dealt with in isolation. We must improve all our efforts to save human life in the workplace,' he said.
Labour Director General Dr Vanguard Mkosana told BuaNews that there was a need to strengthen co-operation with other parties in the private sector in controlling workplace causalities and fatalities.
"Fatalities at workplace have reached an alarming and an unacceptable level,' he said.
Dr Mkosana said the high rate of incidences impacted negatively on government.
Regarding adherence and compliance to the Occupational Health and Safety Act by employers, Dr Mkosana said there was an improvement since the figures indicated that only a few employers were currently not adhering to the Act.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires that employers bring about and maintain a reasonable practicable work environment that is safe and without risk to the health of the workers.
Workplace accidents investigated by the Department's inspectors this year include an elevator shaft accident at a Johannesburg building site which left a worker injured as well as events surrounding the deaths of three construction employees at a car plant in May, in the Eastern Cape.
Regarding the incident at the AngloGold Ashanti's Tautona mine, minister Mdladlana said such incidences should be prevented.
Two of the men were rescued, while a subsequent rock-fall thwarted efforts to locate the five remaining workers, three of whom later died.
Speaking at the same conference, outgoing Compensation Fund acting commissioner Phineas Mothiba said that over 1,2 million claims were lodged with the Fund between 2000 and 2005. Of these, 164 614 were compensation awards in respect of temporary total disablement, 27 210 in respect of permanent disablement, while 3 665 pension awards were related to permanent disablement and fatal claims.
"The claims expenditure for the financial years 2004-5 and 2005-6 amounted to R3,8 billion," he said. The conference has brought together delegates from organised labour, business and the civil society.
The conference is expected to review the accord signed by industry stakeholders and the department in 2001 with regard to making the workplace safer.