Enviromental: Occupational Diseases – are companies serious?

The case of six workers suffering from occupational asthma who were dismissed by aluminium smelter company, Bayside Aluminium, for ‘occupational incapacity’ will go to arbitration after a conciliation meeting failed to resolve the dispute. The six, with more than 40 years service between them, were recently diagnosed with “potroom asthma”, a recognised occupational disease.

Management justifies their dismissal on the grounds that they tried to transfer them to other departments but “they did not succeed”. Numsa full-time shop steward, Bangizwe Mathenjwa, refutes this. In terms of company procedure, “no manager can refuse to place affected workers in their department,” he says, “but one manager has done exactly that.”

Ironically, the nearby sister smelter, Hillside Aluminium, has managed to place more than 15 workers affected by potroom asthma in other departments.

POTROOM ASTHMA is the asthma that you get when you are exposed to chemicals/ emissions during the reduction process in most smelters. It occurs mostly in their reduction departments.

Once you are diagnosed, you are immediately removed from exposure. When you have it, it affects your lungs such that when you are asleep, you find it hard to breathe.