Health and safety

We are not the champions of health and safety!

Numsa shop steward and health and safety representative for five years at Arcelor Mittal in Saldanha, Lourenzo Pietersen, says he can now use health and safety legislation effectively after attending a three week health and safety pilot course facilitated by the Industrial Health Resource Group (IHRG).

Being a Shopsteward and health and safety representative for the past five years I thought that the employer provided the best health and safety learning material and that our company was at the forefront in health and safety in the Iron and Steel Sector. How wrong I was!We were 15 Numsa and nine Solidarity representatives from the leading iron and steel companies in South Africa. Working and sharing different health and safety policies and procedures and analyzing information from all the companies was very interesting.We concluded that* the employers do not fully comply with the health and safety laws in the industry. * We are not the champions of health and safety! Health and safety/shopstewards representatives have no (or little) idea what the functions of a health and safety representative are. Nor do they know how to apply or enforce health and safety legislation, regulations and codes in the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, the Labour Relation Act, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 1993 or the Employment Equity Act 1998.The learning/course material compiled by IHRG is the best worker friendly course material ever. If you compare your own workplace training material with this course material you will be shocked. The material is different to the material that management rolls out. Management gives you forms to complete and they think that they have complied with the OH&S Act. The courses that management provides are facilitated by outside service providers with no real participation from workers or trade unions. The IHRG course outlines the role of management, workers and the unions in creating a safe working environment. It gives you tools as the union to negotiate and consult on health and safety issues. It also provides you with tools to rectify an unsafe workplace as per the legal provisions of the OH&S Act as well as what other labour legislation to use on OH&S contravention. It was developed with the inclusion of workers and trade unions.This course has strengthened my ability to use the health and safety legislation effectively. Personally, I feel that Numsa should roll out this programme to all health and safety/shopstewards representatives in the iron and steel industry. Numsa should champion a national health and safety committee to tackle health and safety in the industry. There should also be a Health and Safety Conference convened so that delegates can debate health and safety in the workplace. Finally I want to thank the Dept of Labour, IHRG and Numsa for advancing health and safety in the iron and steel industry.

Employer refused to send injured employee homePinky Ramokoka

On Monday July 6, an employer refused to send a worker home after he was injured at work.This happened at one of the biggest panel beaters in Rustenburg. Every Monday morning, people working in the paint shop department clean the spray booths before they start their sanding jobs. One of them went into the spray booth unaware that iron bars from the spray booth had been removed and he fell down and was injured.He was injured on his left leg and taken to the store room for first aid treatment. The wounds were so bad that he had to be taken to hospital to be stitched. He was left at the hospital but the company didn’t even bother to pick him up. From hospital, he had to take a 25 minute walk back to the company with a stitched, painful leg to submit the doctor’s reports and x-rays. He asked if he could be taken home and the employer told him: “jy moet werk, jy is nie “˜n vrou nie” (you must work, you are not a woman). He gave the employer a medicine prescription from the doctor and they promised to buy him medication but they never did. The following day he came to work in the hope that they had bought him medication only to find out that they didn’t. He spent the whole day working despite his painful leg.He said the doctor refused to give him sick leave saying he is not badly injured whereas he had three stitched wounds.

Epilepsy – The Facts Pinky Ramokoka

Many people think that epilepsy has something to do with witchcraft. This is completely untrue and there is absolutely no reason to fear it.Epilepsy is a common neurological condition that affects roughly one in a hundred people. Anybody can be affected, no matter what their age, gender, race, nationality or social standing. People who are epileptic suffer seizures [also called convulsions or fits] of varying frequency, depending on the nature of their condition. Seizures are caused by abnormal electrical impulses in the brain. It could be an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, an injury to the head, an infection or even a birth defect or trauma.

DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENTNot everyone who has a convulsion has epilepsy. Some seizures can be caused by an injury to the head or a very high fever. The doctor will take this into account before deciding whether a seizure is caused by epilepsy. Blood tests, an EEG [that measures electrical impulses in the brain] and sometimes a CT scan [to check for injury] might be done to help with diagnosis.Most people with epilepsy can control it very well with the right medication. Various types of epilepsy medication are available. It sometimes takes a while to find the right medicine and dosage, and as with other health conditions, people with epilepsy need to take their medication regularly and as directed by their doctor. They need to continue to take it even if they feel fine.


Don’t panic! Use something soft to protect their head. Let them lie in the recovery position [top leg bent, bottom arm slightly extended – see picture] Remove spectacles [if there are any] and loosen clothing. Never put anything into the mouth, or try restraining their movements. Call an ambulance if the seizure lasts more than six minutes or s/he has repeated seizures. When they regain consciousness, allow them to rest until recovered. (See below for different kinds of seizures)USEFUL CONTACT: Epilepsy SA national office: [021] 447- 3014; Thanks to for information

Different kinds of seizuresSEIZURE TYPE 1: WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE:

The person looks blank and stares. There may be blinking or slight twitching. It lasts a few seconds then normal activity continues.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Be reassuring. The person may be unaware of the seizure. Note that it has occurred. SEIZURE TYPE 2: WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE:

The common sequence is: staring; stiffening of the body; possible blue colour around the mouth; jerking movements. As breathing restarts, normal colour returns. There may be blood flecked saliva and incontinence (rare). Lasts a few minutes.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Protect the person from injury. Cushion the head. Do not restrict movement or put anything in the mouth. Help breathing by putting the person on to their side in the recovery position. Stay with him or her until fully recovered.


May start with a warning or “aura”. The person may appear confused or distracted. There may be repetitive movements, e.g. plucking at clothes.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Remove harmful objects and guide the person away from danger. Talk quietly to reassure him or her


Compensation for the loss of a fingerIn Numsa News No 3 we told the story of Martin Tau who lost his job after his finger was amputated after an accident at work. At the time he was working under a labour broker and the company where he was contracted failed to complete workmens’ compensation forms for him.Numsa assisted him to submit his claim and now two months later he reports that he has received monetary compensation for the loss. Although this is good news, it will never replace his missing finger.