Labour inspectors find 75% health and safety law compliance

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.

Compensation problems
“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.
• 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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17 thoughts on “Labour inspectors find 75% health and safety law compliance

  1. R10 0000 for the death of 2 people? Is this the value we have placed on life. R10 0000 is a mere drop in the ocean for most companies. I can’t believe the law has not changed yet and more severe sentences and fines are not issued.
    Most companies can afford to budget for HSE fines and if the law and penalties do not change the culture of HSE in the country will not change people will continue dying and companies get of with just a slap on the wrist. Google UK CEOs fines and imprisonment and have a look at how many CEOs went to jail there or where given heavy fines. If South Africa wants to come up to world standards we need to change our perception on the value of life.

    Editor notes; Without making any comment on ethics, it is relevant that all industries carry collective insurance, either in the Compensation Fund for industries, or FEM for construction, or a similar fund for mining, to pay bereaved families or injured workers.
    Fines only pay for some of the cost of inspection, admin, enforcement, or justice, and their use should ideally be fenced for particular purposes. Fines are not an eye-for-eye calibration. It is to some extent and indicator of what operators and the state are willing to exchange, or that both could get away with, without breaking the deal of nationality. Multinational companies choose their nationality and jurisdiction.

    1. I tend to agree with unhappy SHE. Companies do have deep wallets, BUT, the State should start punishing directors in their personal capacity in addition to the company concerned. In addition to this, Section 69(8) of the Companies Act, should be amended to “disqualify” a person if that person (whilst being a director) is found guilty of an offence in terms of the OHSAct.
      Perhaps the DOL, DOJ and DTI should sit down and have a chat about this.

  2. 89.5% of all statistics are made up on the spot. 75% compliance? What twak – come on. How many people is dying? I bet you only 5% of the DOL inspectors are competent. Has anyone seen the gemors these ous churn out in the form of guidance and advice? My Liewe Aarde en Hemel. The rot starts at the top – if you can sort that out you may just be on the road to success. Until then workplace killing will just be a business expense in the old republic.

  3. Admission of Guilt fine of R100 000? If the maximum penalty payable on a guilty verdict, how can a company pay an admission of guilt of equal value?
    An admission of guilt fine is determined by the clerk of the court or the prosecutor when they have reason to believe that the court will not issue a fine for punishment. This is normally done when the prosecutor believe the state do not have a strong enough case to secure a guilty verdict. I suggest the honourable minister read Section 57 and 57A of the Criminal Procedures Act. But then again, if you have to convince parliament to approve your department’s budget, I guess you have “look great”.

  4. Bluntly said, then her inspectors are wealthy because of briberies. I work on a daily basis with small as well as large companies and what they know about Occupational Health and Safety is shocking. Where did they inspect these companies because it is a sure as hell not anywhere in the Mpumalanga / Gauteng region! Trucking companies, pump, conveyor, metal, scrap, gas etc. suppliers gets totally de @#@$#% in when you send them back because of Letter of Good Standing not being available! Employees not having PPE at all, vehicles falling apart, rigging equipment defect etc… Where is these 75% compliant companies. How many companies are there in South Africa??? What size of companies is referred to and audited??

  5. Leon
    I agree with you. But sadly, statements like these, however well they are written to disguise the truth, makes the main news channels and the entire country goes WOW!
    Then we all have a fuzzy feeling and a totally misconstrued sense of our own level of compliance, making it impossible for anyone with common sense to provide health & safety services to these “believers”. And nobody will employ a safety officer because; what the hell, the DOL believes we are that good. Bribery? Perhaps, but I would not bribe an inspector who knows nothing about H&S. I would simply wait until the prosecutors throw the case off the table.

  6. SA a R100 000 fine for loss of two lives? really is like a tap on the shoulder and saying you did well. This promotes the culture of budgeting for fines on yearly basis.
    As for the inspector visits, I have been working in the same company for 10 years and never seen an inspector onsite. I agree with unhappy hse the DOL must benchmark with the best before claiming points and also stop being reactive every time.

  7. These guys (DOL) or DROL as I like to call them are massaging the figures to make THEM LOOK GOOD. A bunch of self serving sycophants – I hope they can sleep easy with the blood of the workforce on their hands – yes my friends, it is THEM. Julius Malema was right – the gubberment is only to willing to take the glory – the marikana issue highlights this – but when it goes wrong, it is always someone else to blame. In terms of international law and the guidelines set by the International Labour Organisation, the DOL must create and implement a country specific H&S management system which includes adequate regulation and enforcement – I think there should be a call for an independent party to measure their performance and paint a true picture of what is happening in the south african workplace.

  8. There is no way that we have a 75% compliance.
    In my opinion the DOL does not understand what it means to be compliant. From experience have they not even inspected the greatest part of Guateng’s construction industry and if they do inspections they focus on Health and Safety Files.
    The mall collapse in KZN is a very good example that the file does not save lives.
    They will attend sites and see how employees are working unsafely and they will not say a word. Compliance needs to start on site and not inside a file filled with papers that most employees don’t even know about.
    I am one to know as my Foreman will pass the attendance register around and the staff will just sign and when I ask them about the topics or the DSTI’s they signed they look at me with blank impressions.
    So how can the DOL declare a 75% compliance in a culture where Safety is of no value to the Project Managers, SUpervisors and Employees?

  9. Valid criticism, how can we as SHE Professionals contribute positively to assist with an improvement of the System? Any ideas?

    1. Danie
      Your question opens a mine-field, but in my opinion SHE Professionals need to play a more proactive role in Organisational Compliance and not just focus on SHE systems. The general SHE System is confined to a set of paradigms from older systems created by institutions like the old NOSA and although much have progressed from then to the ISO and OHSAS standards we have today, the role of the SHE Professionals are still viewed in a limited scope. SHE professionals need to move out of SHE and into Organisational Compliance, making SHE part of the entire business organisational structure and culture. Board Decisions on new products and new strategies all have an impact on SHE at some level; even externally to the company; in public domain or at end-user level. SHE Professionals should move from measuring SHE performance to measuring SHE compliance of the entire company. They should move into procurement, production, engineering, finance, and HR to create a SHE compliant culture, broader than the OHSAct, but integrated with all applicable regulatory requirements. Ever considered the effect of your company’s creditor payment terms on SHE compliance of your suppliers and contractors?

      Whilst the DOL measures compliance on ONE act and only get 75%, how low is the overall organisational compliance rating if we were to include the other acts pertaining to SHE Compliance?
      Perhaps it is a mere matter of semantics, but SHE need to move away from a SYSTEM driven function and more into a BUSINESS driven function. Getting ISO certification is not about meeting system requirements – it is about the business meeting the requirements of its own decisions, policies and procedures. Too many companies are system driven, only for the two weeks prior to an audit, or DOL inspection – hurrying about site to get the “evidence” ready to do the “show and tell” exercise. And when the auditor or inspector leaves it is “business as usual”. It is this “Business as Usual” that we need to improve, instead of creating separate phrases like Zero Harm; Safety First etc etc. When Business as Usual results in Zero harm; we can pop the champagne!

  10. SA Labour Inspection 75% compliance with health and safety laws (164 868 workplace audit /inspection)? Sooo. Shortage of Occupational Safety, Hygiene and Medical Inspectors was a challenge previously for DoL. About the DMR, what is our compliance with regard to Occupational Health and Safety in the mines?

  11. What are the statistics for:
    Number of Accidents, First Aid Treatment Frequency Rate, Disabling Injury Frequency Rate, Fatality Frequency Rate, Lost Days and Average cost per Accident.
    A clever person once told me “You can only control what know and are aware of”.
    So in terms of the ILO – statistically, how do we measure up?
    Are we killing people?
    Are we just speculating?

    ==== Editor notes; DOL does not have such data. The Compensation Fund has some data of that kind, FEM has some similar data for construction, and so do the mining insurers. The morgues have the most reliable data, kept by an agency at Unisa. Academic research into the kind of data you mention was undertaken about two years ago, but not published to my knowledge.
    If we had all this lagging data, not much would change. Each operator knows its own data and incident trends in its own sector, but the usual blind spots and rationalisation mechanisms are alive and well.

    1. Vincent
      I think we are all just speculating – even the DOL. As you said, we do not know everything and measure only the things known to us. Compliance is a matter of opinion and opinion is based on knowledge (or lack thereof). The ultimate “do or don’t we” lies with the courts after we have killed a person or after being prosecuted. Too often we audit ourselves on things that are not necessarily a “legal requirement” (Simple example is the endless list of written appointments that are created separately as part of our opinion of what the law wants). Yet in most cases so many other legal requirements are simply not “seen”.
      SHE has become so focused on paperwork, that we forget the real job we are supposed to do.
      Even the DOL covers less than 20% of the OHSAct during inspections. So the 75% compliant companies only comply with the items the DOL asked for during inspections. Asking 20 questions out of a possible 100 does not prove anything. It only proves you know the answer to 20 questions. But we need some form of measurement and accidents (albeit too late) is the most commonly used measurement of success (failure) of SHE compliance.
      It is easy to criticize the DOL as the enforcer of the H&S laws, but it reflects poorly on ourselves, as we are the ones that are employed to prevent non-compliance.
      As our measurement systems are retrospective, we are in no position to state facts. We are simply speculating. We speculate on how many MORE accidents would have or could have happened, but we can never prove the answer would be less. We killed 73 people in 2013 in construction. If we had 85% compliance would this number have been 63? Or 53 if we had 95% compliance? No, we can simply speculate.
      And how many accidents happened at the 41 217 companies with non-compliance? None? 10? 100?
      Statistically we don’t need to measure up.

      1. I’m afraid I disagree with you. Labour laws have evolved over history as the population has grown more aware of their rights. Regulation, and by that I mean good regulation accompanied by enforcement is required. If we relied on companies to take the moral high ground, I’m afraid we’d still be experiencing workiing conditions similar to that of the industrial revolution. Nearly all countries that have relatively better accident rates can correlate this with good regulation and enforcement – some of it is also culture related (look at Germany and Japan for example), but I would not say South Africa has the correct ethos and culture to let people and business run loose – it will quickly become the wild west (maybe it is already). So the DOL like SAPS and other governmental departments must take their fair share of the blame, the lion’s share as far as I am concerned.

  12. “People’s perceptions become their reality, regardless of the constant truth.”
    I would love someone to write an article on the Department of Labour’s definition of Occupational Health and Safety.
    As it stands, this article opens up an insight into very different views on the subject.

  13. Compliance is like this
    I have never cheated on my wife = 100%
    I have never been caught cheating on my wife = 100%
    I cheat on my wife = 100%

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