Health and Safety

Going to work to die!Peter Thobejane and Jenny Grice

Since the beginning of the year more than 120 miners have died in mine accidents. In the latest accident the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) inspectors "refused to go and inspect the

The workplace where Legodi met his death (above)

West shaft at East Rand Proprietary Mine (ERPM) where mineworkers lost their lives citing fears for their safety," says Num spokesperson, Lesiba Seshoka.

This shows what a "dangerous workplace" this is he says. Although the scale of deaths and injuries in the mining sector is nowhere like that in Numsa's sectors, metalworkers too are dying at work.

Sometimes accidents kill them instantly or maim them terribly. Other times their work environments taint them with deadly chemicals that will kill them slowly.

Despite the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) which provides guidelines to employers and employees on how to work in a safe environment in the workplace, injuries and deaths continue in Numsa companies.

KSB PumpsOn August 16, Patrick Boshomane passed away while he was selling his labour at KSB Pumps and Valves in Elandsfontein.

He had worked for the company for more than 14 years as an artisan and had worked the same machine for 12 years. Eye witnesses said they heard Patrick screaming.

When they ran to him they found that his head and half of his body had been swallowed by the machine. Just his legs remained outside the machine moving backwards and forwards. He had been turning a giant valve on the lathe.

The department of labour (DOL) intervened immediately and issued a prohibition notice that said that all machines should cease operations until a risk assessment was handed to the department of labour.

The company pleaded with Numsa to intervene saying that if all the machines were shut down then they would have to send about 400 workers home.

Eventually DOL agreed to just restrict the operation of those machines that were similar to the one where Boshomane was killed. As Numsa News went to print Numsa was waiting for the DOL report.

Van de WeteringMeanwhile workers in the Rosslyn local threatened protest action against trailer-maker Van de Wetering.

This is after Samson Legodi was killed when a trailer fell on him and two other workers died at the factory in the past yearWorkers were demanding that the company pay the cost of Legodi’s funeral, agree to the election of health and safety representatives in the company in terms of OHSA and make temporary workers permanent.

Two days before the planned march by thousands of workers in the Rosslyn local, the company called us to a meeting and drew up a settlement agreement,” says Rosslyn local organiser Sekome Tshoga.

The company agreed to pay R20 000 towards the cost of the funeral and to oversee the election of seven health and safety representatives, two of whom will be Numsa shop stewards.

Although Tshoga says they have not won the right for temporary workers to become permanent, the company has agreed to deal with them in terms of the main agreement.

KwaZulu NatalRegional organiser Thulani Ngubane reports that accidents and deaths have occurred at workplaces in KwaZulu Natal.

Over the last year three workers have died in the province. A worker was killed at Lee Scrap Metals in Phoenix, Durban when he was knocked over by an iron bar.Two workers at Cargo Lite, Mkondeni in Pietermaritzburg were cleaning inside a container when it caught alight.

Both were killed on the spot.A night-shift worker lost his leg in an accident at work at Hendok in Phoenix.Ngubane worries that there is "no Numsa initiative to show sympathy to our members who die during the execution of their tasks at different workplaces.

"He urges Numsa to debate Num's proposal to mine employers that "they pay a percentage of their payroll towards the plight of workers who die or get injured in the mines as a result of the employer's negligence.

"Numsa sends it condolences to the families of those that have died at work or from work-related illnesses. Companies must put workers' health and safety before their profits!

Ukuya emsebenzini uyofa!Kusukela kuqale unyaka sebengaphezu kwe-120 abasebenzi basezimayini asebefe ezingozini zasezimayini.

Nakuba isikali sokufa kanye nesokulimala engxenyeni yezimayini singakasondeli nakusondela uma siqhathaniswa nezinye izingxenye zeNumsa, abasebenzi basezinsimbini nabo bayafa emsebenzini futhi babulawe nayizifo eziphathelene nomsebenzi.

Singayenza kanjani indawo esisebenzela kuyo ukuthi iphephe? Ingabe kufanele sixoxe nabaqashi ukuthi bafake isandla esisekelweni esiqhubekayo sokwakha isikhwama sabasebenzi abalimala, abakhubazeka noma abafa emsebenzini? Werk toe gaan om te sterf!

Sedert die begin van die jaar is daar reeds meer as 120 mynwerkers in mynongelukke dood. Hoewel die omvang van sterftes en beserings in die mynwese baie groter is as in Numsa se sektore, sterf metaalwerkers ook by die werk en aan werkverwante siektes.

Hoe kan ons ons werkplekke veiliger maak? Moet ons met werkgewers onderhandel om op ‘n voortgaande grondslag by te dra tot ‘n fonds vir werkers wat by die werk beseer, vermink of gedood word? Ho ya mosebetsing o ilo shwa!Haesale ho tloha mathwasong a selemo ke basebetsi ba merafong ba ka bang hodimo ho 120 ba hlokahetseng dikotsing tsa merafong.

Le ha sekgahla sa ho hlokahala le ho tswa dikotsi mokgeng wa merafo se sa tshwane le sa mekga ya Numsa, basebetsi ba tshepe (metalworkers) le bona ba ntse ba hlokahala mosebetsing ka baka la malwetse a amanang le mosebetsi.

Na re ka etsa jwang hore dibaka tseo re sebetsang ho tsona e be tse bolokehileng? Na re lokela ho buisana le boramesebetsi hore ba kenye letsoho ka mokgwa o tswellang le ho theha letlole bakeng sa basebetsi ba lemalang, ba holofalang kapa ba hlokahalang mosebetsing?

Killing them softly!

The long hard struggle for compensation for workers whom Numsa and medical experts claim are suffering from manganese poisoning continues. Mziwakhe Hlangani reports.

Their faces and sad posture tell the story of agonizing suffering and hopelessness. The middle-aged patients who once worked for Assmang doctors say are dying from manganese-related illnesses.

They shuffle lamely with the support of walking sticks to make their appearance every day at a Department of Labour (DOL) convened hearing in Cato Ridge, outside Pietermaritzburg.Medical practitioners and neurologists at the enquiry told of how burly foreman, Joshua Benjamin Haarhoff, was exposed to manganese dust at Assmang for 12 years.

A foreman in the crushing plant and smelting furnace, he was only removed from the working area six years after he could not walk properly. He now suffers from chronic manganese toxicity which has caused his sexual dysfunction and swelling in his hands.

He shares this history of manganese exposure with many other permanently disabled colleagues.Medical doctors confirmed at the hearing that his brain abnormalities detected in a neurological examination were the cause of his poor balance, the tightening of muscles in his legs, his forgetfulness and profuse sweating.

All these symptoms made him unsuitable for employment in the labour market. However one of these neurologists and head of Wits University Movement Disorder Clinic, Dr Susan Tager, told the enquiry that after taking medical histories and conducting neurological assessments of about 17 patients at Assmang, she was inexplicably excluded together with other specialists from the company-appointed medical panel investigating the long-term effects of occupational diseases in the company.

The new team of doctors that replaced her panel then conducted further tests on the affected workers. They declared that some of the 10 workers who were receiving compensation from the Compensation Commissioner, including Haarhof, were not permanently disabled and could return to work. One of them did return to work and was killed in the explosion which killed seven workers in February 2008.The company is also challenging the Compensation Commissioner's ruling on the 10 workers.

Assmang threatens to relocateUnder heavy cross-examination by Numsa's laywer, Richard Spoor, Assmang CEO, Brian Broekman, threatened to pull out the company and relocate to neighbouring countries where “health and safety laws are not so strict”.

In earlier hearings, accredited inspectorate authorities have told of how Assmang's manganese dust exposure levels in the factory have exceeded South Africa's limits of 5mg/m3. But South Africa's levels are 25 times the ILO's acceptable minimum permissible exposure levels of 0,2mg/ m3 and also exceed other European countries.

However a new occupational hygienist, Kobus Dekker, contracted by Assmang told the hearing that the company had not contravened regulatory requirements nor occupational exposure levels.

If Assmang were to relocate its factory, more than 800 workers would most certainly lose their jobs for life, while those later diagnosed as suffering from manganese poisoning would never be compensated, nor would they ever find suitable employment in the labour market again.

Those workers in neighbouring countries would be doomed to suffer the same fate as these workers in Cato Ridge but with less strict health and safety regulations to offer them some protection.Meanwhile the company is also under pressure over its accident record.

Since December 2007 seven workers have been killed in explosions at the factory. In early September 2008 another explosion rocked the smelter resulting in five workers being rushed to hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation. Fortunately no-one died in this accident.The hearing will resume on November 10 2008.

Minimum permissible exposure levels Denmark 0,2 mg/m3ILO 0,2 mg/m3World Health Organisation 0,3 mg/m3US 1 mg/m3South Africa 5 mg/m3

Ukubulala kancane!INumsa iyaqhubeka nokulwa nenkampani yemanganezi i-Assmang ekulalelweni kwecala emnyangweni wezemisebenzi e-Cato Ridge.

INumsa imangalela inkampani ngokuthi ifakele abasebenzi bayo uphoyizeni ngokungalawuli amazinga eqile othuli lwemanganezi efektri yayo. Amadoda ayeqinile enamandla manje asehamba ngokusebenzisa izimboko uma eya ekulalelweni kwecala, amajoyinti awo abuhlungu, futhi awakwazi ukubhalansa kanti nobudoda bawo abusasebenzi.

Isebenzisa odokotela bayo, inkampani ikuphonsela inselelo ukuxilongwa ithi abasebenzi bayagula nje futhi nalabo abathola isinxephezelo kuKhomishina Wezinxephezelo kufanele benqatshelwe ukuthola isinxephezelo.

Ukulalelwa kwecala kuyaqala futhi phakathi noNovemba. ‘n “Sagte” dood!Numsa veg nog steeds in Cato Ridge in ‘n verhoor van die

Departement van Arbeid teen die mangaanmaatskappy Assmang. Numsa voer aan dat die maatskappy sy werkers vergiftig het deur nie die oormatige vlakke van mangaanstof in sy fabriek te beheer nie.

Mans wat eers fris en sterk was, gebruik nou kieries om met pynlike ledemate na die verhoor toe aan te skuifel, en hulle lei ook aan swak balans en impotensie.Die maatskappy staan die diagnose met behulp van hulle eie dokters teen, en beweer dat die werkers net siek is, en dat diegene wat vanaf die Vergoedingskommissaris vergoeding ontvang het, nie verdere vergoeding toegestaan moet word nie.

Die verhoor word in die middel van November hervat. E ba bolaya ha bonolo!Numsa e ntse e tswela pele ho lwantshana le khampani ya manganese ya Assmang lefapheng la mesebetsi mane Cato Ridge.

Numsa e bolela ha khampani e ile ya beha maphelo a basebetsi kotsing ya tjhefo ka ho se laole maemo a hodimo haholo a lerole la manganese fekethering.

Ba bang ba banna ba neng ba le dinatla ba se ba tsamaya ka thuso ya melamu e ba tshehetsang ho tla mamelong ya nyewe ya bona, manonyeletso a bona a bohloko, mme ha ba sa kgona le ho ikemela ka bobona, ba bile ba na le bothata ba ho fokola.

Ka ho sebedisa dingaka tsa yona, khampani e phephetsa se fumanweng ke dingaka ka ho re basebetsi ba mpa ba kula feela mme bao ba fumaneng ditlhapiso ho tswa ho Mokhomishenara wa Ditlhapiso ha ba tshwanela ho fumana ditlhapiso.Mamelo ena e tla kena hape mahareng a Pudungwana.

For more on the struggle at Assmang, including how Assmang's preferred US doctor has been exposed as company-biased go to:


Numsa News