A report commissioned by the Department of Employment & Labour and the UN’s International Labour Organisation has recommended that SA develops a national policy and strategy on occupational safety and health to instil a culture of compliance with health and safety regulations across all sectors of the economy.
Business Day reports that although SA had a comprehensive legal framework on occupational safety and health, it was “fairly complex and fragmented”, with the main legislation falling under three government departments and other regulatory agencies.
Recommendations in the report, titled The Profile of Occupational Health and Safety SA, include developing an integrated data collection system on occupational injuries and diseases that will inform national policy and strategy on occupational safety and health. The report recommended that the government capitalise on opportunities brought about by COVID-19 to instil an occupational safety and health culture across all sectors of the economy and government departments.
Employment & Labour Deputy Minister Boitumelo Moloi said that during 2019, more than 28,000 inspections were conducted with fewer than 300 inspectors, and inspections showed poor compliance with occupational safety and health protocols by the wholesale and retail, manufacturing, and iron and steel sectors.
Fin24 writes that the report found there is a worrying lack of compliance with occupational health and safety standards in some sectors, and the pandemic has highlighted some of the critical gaps in keeping employees safe. Occupational health and safety specialist Spoponki Kgalamono said there was still a critical gap in SA when it came to the informal economy and work changes introduced by the Covid-19 pandemic. ‘
Moloi said a lack of recorded data on diseases was a critical gap. Business Unity South Africa board member Deidre Penfold said employees have responded positively to efforts to improve occupational health and safety. The report gave useful guidance on where OHS could be improved, Penfold said. But Black Business Council CEO Gregory Mofokeng non-compliance remained unacceptably high and welcomed the opportunity to address problems.
Federation of Unions of South Africa general secretary Reifdah Ajam said the report was long overdue. Cosatu deputy secretary general Solly Phetoe agreed, flagging difficulties with compensation claims. Fin24 reports that Compensation Fund commissioner Vuyo Mafat, however, said ‘the priority should remain to prevent, decrease and eradicate occupational health and safety hazards in the workplace’, adding that illness and injury resulted in a loss of skills to the economy.
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