State fails health and safety inspection, says DOL

The SA Department of Labour criticised public service employers and state departments for dismal health and safety inspection results and “OHS disregard”.

Medical facilities, including hospitals and state clinics, achieved only 22% compliance with Hazardous Biological Agents regulations in 2014. Among 24 Limpopo health facilities inspected, none complied. In North West, only half complied.

“Workers in the public services should also enjoy the basic core rights enshrined in labour law, including the OHS Act, which also binds the state,” said Department of Labour Deputy Director-General of Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES), ThobileLamati.

He told a Hazardous Biological Agents (HBA) seminar at a resort in BelaBela, Limpopo in September 2014; “I say this with heavy heart because I work in the public service.

“Judging from the inspection reports nationally, the health and safety of workers in the public sector is seemingly not a primary issue, it is a secondary matter.

“As a department we have been closing down non-complying offices and schools, and in doing so we do not derive joy. We have closed them because it is our job.

“Every time there is a school, an army barracks, or an office closed by the inspectors, service delivery is affected. As a department we are often accused of focusing only in the private sector when we enforce laws. Our responsibility is to protect every work including workers in the public service.

State clinics need health and safety policy

“In the coming few months [the last quarter of 2014], I will be issuing an instruction to the public service in terms of Section 7 of the OHS Act, instructing medical facilities to develop an occupational health and safety policy,” Lamati said.

The theme of the department’s seminar was: “Improving OHS in the Health Sector”. Lamati presented a hazardous biological agents inspection report from visiting 407 workplaces nationally.

He said there was a dismal 22% level of compliance found in health and safety inspections. “The sad thing is that these are medical and health facilities… health and welfare of workers should be a priority.

In Limpopo province, 24 health facilities were inspected and none complied. “That is a serious cause for concern. The North West is trying its best as there is 50% compliance from employers.

“We believe every worker exposed to hazardous environment creates a problem for the state as they these workers will later be a burden to the overstretched social security and primary health care system.

“Will we ever get a 100% compliance rate? We need to double our efforts to make inroads in the public service.

“In terms of the OHS Act, we are also bound to use legal instruments in case there is failure to comply with the law,” he said.

Many Labour notices issued to clinics

Chief inspector Lamati said there were 47 improvement notices issued in the period under review, and 22 prohibition notices.

He cautioned that the prohibition notices could only be revoked once issues raised by inspectors are addressed.

“People have tendency to take short cuts, instead of addressing the matters raised by inspectors, they phone the Chief Inspector. The law provides for appeal on decision of the inspectors, but proper procedures should be followed in this regard.”

Lamati said the health and safety inspection of public health facilities has uncovered prominent areas of non-compliance ranging from:

[] no risk assessment conducted
[] employees not inducted and trained on sources of exposure, health effects and control of HBA
[] evaluation of hazards to exposure and control measures not carried out
[] medical surveillance not conducted in accordance to HBA regulations
[] non-provision of personal protective equipment to employees.

The compliance status of the public sector was “worse than poor”. Employers are not discharging their responsibility. “We need to go back to do a feed-back session with individual employers.

“We want to talk to heads of these institutions. The Chief Executives have a responsibility to ensure compliance. We will be having feedback sessions with these workplaces and thereafter follow the latter of the law,” Lamati said.

In October and November 2014, the Department of Labour will increase visibility and enforcement. He said priority will fall on particular hotspots and the training of shop stewards in health sector, including scaling up public awareness programmes.

Source; DOL.

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8 thoughts on “State fails health and safety inspection, says DOL

  1. There folks we have it – one inept governmental department which is supposedly there for “enforcement” calling out other perhaps even more inept government departments. Get your own house in order DOL before you start calling your brothers and sister out – you are just merely a symptom of an inept president and gravy train riding mob ruling self-enriching and self-aggrandising government – all at the expense of the people living in the tin shacks and riding to work in coffins on wheels – yes, there we have it folks, you are more likely to die on the roads going to and from work, then while you are there. In South Africa, you are actually safer at work, what with rampant road traffic violaters, muderers, robbers, rapers and whatever else. Get your priorities right – it’s not the management system that is to blame, its the culture.

  2. The DOL is a government department? Oh my word!
    I thought it was a private enterprise operated by COSATU?

  3. Well done DoL – honesty / Risk Assessment.
    Looking forward to seeing better results in future.

  4. At least we have to applaud the DoL for acknowledging their shortcomings and plans they have to rectify them . We will be watching the space .

  5. Yes, and while we ‘applaud the DOL’, we can applaud Pirates for “plans they have” to win the next match against Chiefs. Sorry Kekeletso, but the private sector gets nailed and stopped and prosecuted. The State should suffer the same fate.
    The DOL do not have to admit their shortcomings. Just read the Abortion(construction / corruption, whatever) Regulations 2014 and you will clearly see their shortcomings.
    They come short of making laws that work.
    They come short of ensuring the laws are enforced.
    They come short of ensuring competent people are “educated” and not CPD’ed into competency, and the list goes on and on.
    They come short of delivering on promises of exemptions for industries that cannot comply with the regulations.
    In short, the DOL comes short of personnel. They are too busy killing fires that enquiries takes a year to complete. And while ducking & diving media attention, they fail to address the real issues in health & safety.
    I can only hope that part of their plans are to appoint competent H&S advisors to serve the minister with proper advice on the NEW “20 years in the making” OHSACT, The current advisory council does not have any H&S specialists.
    I really hope that their plans include drafting legislation that is not copied and pasted from the UK or other countries, but made specifically for SA working conditions.

    1. Eventually everything will go the way of United Nations – World Health Organisation.

  6. I have always had a problem with the government and Green Scorpions introducing regulations, enforcig it on the private sector to adhere to, but you find the state not complying… LEAD BY EXAMPLE!

  7. I support DOL in finding that the state fails H&S inspections. I was at Limpopo hospital, it was like hell, no hot water for the patients and almost none for hygiene. The toilets are broken, to flush you have to open the lid on top, there is no hand wash in the toilets. The building itself is disgusting.
    Department of health should appoint a competent safety manager that will report straight to the minister about the situation and advise the CEO in the hospital about the Health and safety needs, and start implementing a system to lead all the departments. Stop claiming that the state does not have money, while the state is misusing our money, spending on their events and sharing on tenders.
    What I like about health and safety is to minimise or eliminate hazards, and reduce costs. But government always likes to take short cuts and appoint incompetent personnel to lead departments, even the tenders.

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