The Department of Labour media statement issued states that “The Minister of Labour, Ms Mildred Oliphant and Deputy Minister, Patekile Holomisa will brief media on the national programme for Workers’ Month. The programme will see a blitz of inspections conducted in sectors that are considered perpetual offenders across the country.
It is all hands on deck as the Minister, the Deputy Minister and senior management of the department will be leading this initiative.
"Know your rights and responsibilities as a means to promote greater compliance", is the message that will underpin the campaign.”
The DoL Chief Inspector, Mr Tibor Szana, has reported that the current claims for fatalities, injuries and occupational diseases exceeds R2billion annually (DoL, 2017). Clearly such a claims ratio is unacceptable, more especially given the range of legislation in place.
The South African health and safety (H&S) legislative framework is extensive and is closely aligned to the conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). However, of what use is knowing workers’ rights at the workplace, if the basic fundamentals of H&S at work are largely ignored?
The lack of detailed statistics relating to fatalities, injuries and occupational diseases from the Compensation Commissioner (CC) has not helped with the perceptions of current problems.
The ILO states that a worker dies every 15 seconds, resulting in about 6300 fatalities per day from accidents and occupational diseases.
A total of 313 million injures are experienced by workers annually, or 860000 injuries daily (Department of Labour (DoL), 2017).
Built Environment Issues
Claire deacon and associates (cd&a) practices mainly in the realm of construction, providing H&S services in line with better practice, and the scope of legislation that applies to projects.
The Construction sector is multi-layered and fragmented in terms of H&S and operational practices. The separation of design and construction are ongoing issues experienced in the sector, as well as the lack of understanding of critical H&S issues as they relate to construction practices and processes, through life cycle, across all six stages.
The aforementioned applies to the built environment, across all of the six councils appointed by the Minister of Public Works and the Council for the Built Environment (CBE). The practice of construction by the built environment professionals is according to the ‘Identity of Work’ (IDoW), which outlines the responsibilities of each discipline, across the six stages of work. It has been noted that the IDoW does not cover much H&S across the life cycle, and in many cases only Construction Managers and Construction project Managers have any reference to H&S as part of their responsibilities (Deacon, 2016).
Basic Rights of Workers’ and High Risk Work
The basic rights of workers need to be taken into consideration from the inception of, or Stage 1 of a project, and followed through to Stage 6. Complexity of design, processes and products all impact on the role of the worker and their exposure. High risk work means extra precautions are needed on a project. However, the separation issues, lack of knowledge, and H&S across the project life cycle applied by the built environment results in the lack of adequate H&S on a project.
Unfortunately the result is that workers suffer, by being injured, become ill, or die at work. Clients have a duty in managing the resources to ensure that H&S is adequately provided for, and monitored during the project.
In conclusion, the "Know your rights and responsibilities as a means to promote greater compliance" needs to be applied by all stakeholders in construction, clients, designers and contractors, to limit risks on a project. Workers need to be compliant too, speak up and by knowing their rights identify where they are at risk and help manage dangerous situations.
Deacon, C.H. 2016. The effect of the integration of procurement, design, construction and health and safety. Unpublished PhD Thesis.
Department of Construction Management. Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Metropolitan University.
Department of Labour. 2017. Working in healthy and safe environment is a right – as Department of Labour celebrates World Day for Safety and Health at Work http://www.labour.gov.za/DOL/media-desk/media-alerts/working-in-healthy-and-safe-environment-is-a-right-2013-as-department-of-labour-celebrates-world-day-for-safety-and-health-at-work
Accessed 26 April 2017.