Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Health and safety at the work place.

Mining in South Africa is dangerous, this country has got some of the deepest mines in the world and of course the deeper you go the more dangerous mines become. This can be minimised by sticking to the “mining health and safety act,” but no this will affect profit margins. For someone who is working in the metal industry you’ll expect some level of danger as well no work place is completely safe after all. Employers completely disregard this and go as far as locking out the  Labour inspectors from their premises. Employers should provide workers with healthy and safe work environment where they can.

I visited one Eskom plant and I was impressed with the level of safety conscious of alomost all their  workers. At Eskom safety of workers is priority therefore they even celebrate no injury week, month, I think they can't wait  for no disabling injury and death free year (which is not impossible). People still die at work, but at least you can take solace in that they prioritise safety and show that they care. In 2003 I visited Koeberg Nuclear plant and an articulate Carin de Villiers took us through their safety routine I was convinced that they are doing a good job, but that was until I met Leila Mohamed and her team from Earthlife Africa of course. That does not take away the fact that Eskom seem to be caring for its workers.

I wish I can say the same about mining and metal workers, I have just spoke to Puleng Minale a Health and safety organiser from Numsa, he made a good of how employers neglect the safety of workers in pursuit of that extra rand. He says, “ if a worker die the maximum an employer can pay is R100.000, but to keep up Healthy and safety environment to a required level can cost a company anything from R2Million to R4 million.

If an employer have to choose between to make work environment safer or paying for the dead the choice is obvious. They choose to take their chances hoping that no one would be injured or die. If unfortunately someone dies they won’t spend as much as they would spend on health and safety. This sounds sick, but it is reality for workers out there. In South Africa like in the USA Company directors are immune from accountability.  Unions have been calling for Directors to answer in Court if people die at work. Until Directors can be charged for negligence and go to jail, health and safety of workers will always be secondary to them.

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