A blitz inspection of working environments dealing with Hazardous Biological Agents (HBA) by the Department of Labour in the Mpumalanga Province has found that only one employer complied with legislation.
Department of Labour Acting Senior Specialist in the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), Bulelwa Huna said the sample of blitz inspections involved 19 employers in the health and related sectors, and they were found wanting when it comes to compliance with labour legislation.
The blitz inspection was conducted between 20-24 November 2017 by the Department’s Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES) branch. The inspection involved visits to hospitals, mortuaries, laboratories, community health centres, and abattoirs amongst others.
Huna was today (30 November) addressing a Departmental Hazardous Biological Agents seminar held at Premier Hotel, White River in Mpumalanga Province. The seminar was held under the theme: “Raising awareness to achieve compliance”.
She said that the inspection found that a total of 27 contravention notices relating to violation of various labour legislations were issued. She lamented the results of the inspection as worrying.
Through the blitz, the Department issued 12 contravention notices and four improvement notices. There was also one undertaking in relation to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), eight Unemployment Insurance Act undertakings, one undertaking in relation to the implementation of the Employment Equity Act and one compliance order in relation to BCEA.
According to Huna, the inspectorate found that in terms of compliance to the Occupational Health and Safety, there was no copy of the Act and regulation readily available, HBA Risk assessment not conducted, no information and training provided, poor housekeeping, poor electrical installation, no personal protective equipment provided, poor ventilation, storage areas are not labelled, incorrect disposal, and no medical surveillance in place for employees exposed to HBA.
Huna said a displayed copy of OHS Act will spell out clearly what need to be done to protect the workers.
A biological agent is defined in the Regulations for Hazardous Biological Agents (HBAs) as: “any micro-organism, cell culture or human endoparasite, including any which has been genetically modified, which may cause an infection, allergy or toxicity, or otherwise create a hazard to human health”.
“The Department of Labour does not accept the proposition that injury, disease and poor health ‘go with the job’, hence the mandate to protect workers against occupational diseases and injuries due to workplace hazards and risks,” emphasised Huna.
She cited that according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) report, globally every 15 seconds: a worker dies from a work related accident or disease, and 153 workers have a work related accident.
She further said that in a recent report of the ILO, it is estimated that the economic costs of poor occupational health and safety practices is estimated at four percent of global gross national product per year.
Huna cautioned of the dire costs of poor occupational health and safety practices, which she said affect both the employer and the employees.
The Department of Labour is hosting the seminar to highlight the imperatives of enforcing OHS to prevent exposure to the hazards, to protect against hazards, to enhance sustainable economic growth and ensure the effective social protection at work.
Issued by: Department of Labour