SA Labour minister Mildred Oliphant said Labour inspectors found that 75% of employers complied with health and safety laws in 2014.
In the Department of Labour budget vote address in July 2014, Oliphant said the DOL Inspection and Enforcement Service has during the 2013-2014 financial year visited and inspected 164 868 workplaces.
“Of these workplaces, 75% were found to be compliant, and 25%, or 41 217, were not.” Among the 25% non-compliant employers, 82% received notices or referrals to court. “This represents an improvement from the previous years, but there is still room for improvement,” said Oliphant.
However in some recent years the Labour inspectorate reported higher compliance rates after its follow-up visits to errant employers.
Labour inspectors to follow ILO guide
“To strengthen Inspection and Enforcement and to fall in line with the International best practice, Convention 81 on Labour Inspection provides useful guidance for designing and monitoring a labour inspection system.
“In the coming years, the Department will be working within the framework of the Convention to make improvements to the functioning of the inspectorate and to monitoring compliance with our labour legislation.
“The Chief Inspector has also engaged with social partners on the activities of the inspectorate and will continue to do so within the framework of the Convention.
“Last year, the Department commenced a process of professionalising the inspectorate so that it can improve our enforcement capabilities but also respond to the needs of the different sectors that the Department is responsible.
“We have completed the first phase of this process and the Department will be commencing with the second phase. A detailed plan will be presented to the Portfolio Committee for Labour.
Coega company fined R100 000
“Not so long ago the country watched with horror the collapse of the Coega Bridge in Port Elizabeth killing two people and injuring 13 people. More recently in Tongaat, a mall that was under construction collapsed fatally injuring two people and causing serious injuries to a further 29 workers.
“As was the case in the Coega incident, the Department conducted an enquiry into the collapse of the Tongaat mall. In the Coega incident, the construction company pleaded guilty and paid R100 000 admission of guilt fine, which is the maximum penalty provided for in the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS Act).
“The Inspection and Enforcement Services branch started the investigation of the Tongaat Mall collapse. Given the seriousness of the matter the Department escalated the investigation into a formal inquiry in order to thoroughly identify the cause of the collapse, prevent re-occurrence of this type of incidents and also to institute criminal proceeding against any party that may have transgressed the provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Construction Regulations.
Social partners want OHS registration
“The Department has in the last financial year worked together with the social partners in the construction industry to stem the tide of incidents. The collaboration with stakeholders under the guidance of the Advisory Council for Occupational Health and Safety (ACOHS) resulted in the promulgation of new Construction Regulations.
“A new provision in the Construction Regulation 2014 is the registration of the Construction Health and Safety Practitioners. This is our first step towards the regulation of the occupational health and safety profession. This in our view will go a long way in contributing towards the reduction of incidents in the construction industry,” said the minister.
“During the last year considerable strides were made to reduce the service delivery challenges experienced by the Compensation Fund and its clients. The Fund has worked hard to improve services to beneficiaries and to improve communication with its stakeholders. The claims backlog should be substantially reduced and the turnaround time on claims and employer services improved,” said Labour minister Oliphant.
“The Fund will continue to keep the Portfolio Committee fully briefed on progress and those areas that may still remain challenges.
“The COID Amendment Bill is at its final draft stage and the Policy Framework will have to go through all other due processes including consultations with our stakeholders. We will keep Parliament posted on the state of readiness for the Bill to be tabled.
“With respect the employment of people with disabilities, the department reached the 2.5% level of representation. Whilst this represents progress there is still some way to go.
The Department “has made some progress on the ICT front and the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) will soon be appointing an IT service provider on behalf of the department by the end of August 2014”.
Department of Labour strategic priorities for 2015
For the 2014/15 financial year, an appropriation of R2.527-b has been awarded to the Labour Department. The increase of R82-m when compared to the 2013/14 adjusted appropriation can mainly be attributed to “the carry-through effect of salary adjustments”.
Department of Labour priorities include;
• Strengthening the inspection and enforcement services.
• Raising awareness of the Amended labour laws in order to encourage compliance.
• Working with the State Information Technology Agency to stabilise the Information Technology work stream.
• Strengthening the role of Public Employment Services.
• Initiating high level dialogue on the key challenges in the labour Market Environment.
• Addressing the challenges at the compensation Fund.
• Addressing the challenge of the infrastructure with respect to the Labour centres.
• Improving Communication and outreach programmes.
• Commence the due processes with respect to appointment of the Director General of the Department and the filling of vacant senior management positions.
• Investigate the modality for the introduction of a national minimum wage as one of the key mechanisms to reduce income inequality.
Labour laws under review
In the legislative and policy environment, the DOL plans to:
• Amend the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act to develop a rehabilitation, re-integration and return to work policy for injured workers and workers affected by occupational diseases.
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• Amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS Act). “The Act places responsibility for creating a healthy and safe working environment on employers, but there are shortcomings in the way that health and safety is being regulated in the workplace,” said the minister.
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