30 August 2019
The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) has called on Parliament to finalize the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)Amendment Bill of 2018 which was approved by Cabinet in May last year and seeks to improve outdated sections of the OHS Act (1993). FEDUSA’s call follows shocking admission in the Gauteng legislature by Health MEC Bandile Masuku that not a single hospital in the province complied with OHS requirements when she stated that: all facilities audited received either a non-compliance finding, such as a contravention and/or improvement compliance notice and fire contravention.
Worst affected health facilities in the province include – Bheki Mlangeni Hospital, Far East Rand Hospital, Tembisa Hospital, Kopanong, Mamelodi, George Mukhari and Ekurhuleni district clinics.
The statement represents a dramatic decline in OHS in the province from last year after its health department admitted that only seven state buildings in the Johannesburg CBD were unsafe and posed health and injury risks to workers because of poor ventilation and fire alarms that are not in working order.
In turn that admission followed the tragic deaths of the three firefighters in September 2018 who died while battling a blaze that had engulfed the Bank of Lisbon Building in the Johannesburg CBD after management ignored a plea from FEDUSA public sector unions to evacuate the building a month earlier in August.
Eight people also subsequently perished in an explosion at a Denel factory in Somerset West in the Western Cape Province.
Against this background the OHS Amendment Bill seeks to afford workers more protection against occupational diseases and injuries by compelling employers to conduct workplace risk assessment and draw specific safety plans in order to minimize workers’ exposure to diseases and injuries.
The Bills also allows workers to run away from danger and unsafe working conditions without being victimised by employers and provides stiffer and more punitive penalties for non-compliance.
The Department of Labour’s Compensation Fund pays an estimated R2 billion a year in occupational damages claims due to non-compliance by both public and private entities. Globally, the International Labour Organizations estimates that a worker dies every 15 seconds in a work-related accident, rising to more than 2.3 million deaths a year across the world.
The benefits of a well-managed occupational health and safety management system are well known but worth repeating here; these include reduced disease burdens and fewer injuries and fatalities, increased productivity, improved job satisfaction and working environment and reduced payment of COIDA claims. On the other hand, a poorly managed OHS system always results in undesirable situations such as fatalities and disabilities; absenteeism and sick leave; replacement of damaged equipment and costly injuries investigations and litigations.
FEDUSA is the largest politically non-aligned trade union federation in South Africa and represents a diverse membership from a variety of sectors in industry.
See www.fedusa.org.za for more information.
For interviews please contact:
FEDUSA Acting President
082 856 2496
FEDUSA Acting General Secretary
079 696 2626
FEDUSA Media and Research Officer
072 637 8096
Email: research @fedusa.org.za