Steel and Iron Industries Ignore Safety Rules

South Africa. Preliminary findings of ongoing inspections have painted a picture of an Iron and Steel industry fraught with high disregard of labour legislation countrywide.

Launched on Monday, the five-day blitz has so far confirmed the sector’s reputation as being one of the country’s Occupational Health and Safety high risk industries mainly through neglect.

Out of 329 workplaces visited as of Thursday, 224 were found to be flouting the law, with inspectors recording 262 various contraventions, and instantly halting operations at 14 sites.

KwaZulu-Natal appears to be the worst province, with 59 of the 77 visited workplaces visited not complying, prompting law enforcement officials to recommend prosecution against at least one employer.

“When injuries rise, production gets negatively affected causing profits to go down, which then results in jobs getting lost.” Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana

The Eastern Cape is the second worst, with only six of the 51 workplaces visited found to be conforming to the legislation.

The Iron and Steel sector has always been on the radar screen since it was identified – together with the construction, farming, and food and beverage sectors – as being among health and safety high risk industries in 2005. At the time, high risk sectors were found to be contributing to 22 percent of accidents and, though reductions have been recorded at some of them, experts still believe a fatality drop in the iron and steel sector would have a considerable impact on other sectors as well.

Commenting on the latest findings on Friday, Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana once again stressed the importance of workers playing a proactive role in ensuring their own workplace Safety.

“Safety is the responsibility of everyone. Every year we spend billions of Rands compensating injured workers through the Compensation Fund for accidents that could have been easily avoided. ” Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana

In a bid to curb accidents in the Iron and Steel industry, the Department of Labour embarked on workplace inspections throughout the country. “The focus of the inspection campaign was on major iron and steel factories checking the level of compliance with Occupational Health and Safety Act as the sector was identified as one of the high risk areas in South Africa in 1995,” said departmental spokesperson Zolisa Sigabi.

In terms of the Act, the Health and Safety of workers should be prioritised by their employers. According to the department, employers are required bring about and maintain a reasonable practicable work environment that is safe and without risk to the health of the workers.

Source: BuaNews (Tshwane)

5 November 2007

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