SA Labour inspectors blitz agri, forestry employers
The SA Department of Labour has promised to step up the gear in its drive to ensure compliance with labour laws vowed to come up with even more stringent fines.
Following the forestry blitz inspections, the Department of Labour hosted a compliance seminar in a forestry region in White River. Tibor Szana, DOL director of Occupational Health and Safety said several employers have paid admissions of guilt fines this year, but increasing penalties could send an even stronger message.
“The highest fine paid recently is R12 000, with other employers having being forced to fork out lesser amounts in the forestry and agricultural sectors. These resulted from more and more court cases in several provinces following blitz inspections,” he said.
Szana said he was pleased that the department was winning more court cases, attesting to the thoroughness with which labour inspectors executed their job.
The department is stepping up training of Labour inspectors, who work in all industries except mining in SA, to ensure that case do not fall within the cracks and that “we have airtight cases before going to court”.
Szana reminded workers of their role in health and safety at work, reporting unsafe act or condition to employer immediately. Workers and employers should assist the DOL to ensure a healthy and safe workplace.
“If we visit a workplace and find there is an immediate danger to life and limb, we will shut up the operations until areas of concern have been corrected”. This approach follows formalisation of work safety stoppages applies in mining in the last two years.
The two day seminar was attended by various government departments, forestry workers and stakeholders from business and organised labour.
Injury compensation challenges
Milly Ruiters, DOL director for occupational health and hygiene, told the seminar that occupational injuries, diseases and fatalities continue to plague the agriculture sector.
The DOL acknowledges a number of problems in its Compensation Commission and in Compensation Fund payouts in response to workplace injuries.
According to Ruiters, compensation payment challenges include:
• late registration of occupational injuries or diseases claims by employers
• delays in payment of compensation benefits due to non-submission of banking details
• some employers are not registered with the compulsory Compensation Fund.
R3b compensation per year
Almost R3 billion was paid to injured SA workers and relevant health service providers, following crippling accidents in the 2009 -2010 financial year.
“The amount paid in the 2010 financial year represents an increase of R441.7m on the previous financial year. Pain and suffering affects thousands of workers each year as well as their families, communities and workplaces,” she said.
The seminar was attended by stakeholders from business, agri, forestry, organised labour, government and civil society groups.
Back injuries in agric and forestry
Ruiters explained that compensation data research showed that sprains, strains and tearing continued to be the leading nature of injury, with the back being the most commonly injured body part in the forestry sector.
She said the high cost resulting from these injuries necessitated a “clear obligation to renew and redouble our efforts to improve workplace health and safety in industry.”
Nelspruit is renamed Mbombela.
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