Numsa held a national workshop to review the current Occupational Health and Safety Act. The workshop was held from the 21-23 May at Booysens Hotel.
The workshop was facilitated by Industrial Health Research Group (IHRG) and Numsa Health Desk.
The workshop was attended by organisers and shopstewards from different regions.
The main purpose of the workshop was to make inputs and submissions to the existing act and regulations to make it more worker friendly, to protect them from workplace injuries, diseases and death.
Participants in the workshop identified the following key areas to be changed in the OH&S legislation;
1. The role of the health and safety representative
Section 18(1) (h) refers to health and safety representatives having rights to accompany inspectors but does not refer to the extent of their powers to engage in investigations.
It requires amendment in order to expand the roles of health and safety representatives in the investigation and inspection by Department of Labour inspectors.
2. Offences, penalties and prosecution
Numsa calls for penalties to be linked to company turnover and profit and those offences be criminalised.
There should be specialist courts to prosecute occupational health and safety offences.
3. Department of labour inspectors
The department of labour inspectors must be compelled to announce themselves to the trade union representative (shopstewards).
4. Duties of employer.
The employer should involve the trade union in the development of the health and safety policy.
Before the employer displays a policy there must be a workplace awareness programme regarding the policy.
5. Rights of trade union representative
A need to amend Occupation Safety Health Act and General Administrative Regulations to ensure that trade union representatives can be included in incident investigations
Make provision in the Occupation Health and Safety Act for trade union representatives to be included in all health and safety matters(activities, meetings and procedures)
Employers providing training should make sure that the curriculum content for training is jointly decided by the employer and the union.
Training on health and safety must also be provided to trade union shop stewards.
7. Medical examination for workers
Provide for pre-employment, periodic and exit medical examinations.
In addition free bi-annual benefit exam after leaving employment.
8. Dispute procedures
GAR 6(7)-establish the right to strike as an option for resolving a dispute.
Problem being that there is no right to strike on an issue regulated by law or a collective agreement) Workers have a right to strike on an interest issue.
9. Access to premises
GAR 2(1) Access to premises is limiting and restricting the right of department of labour inspectors to inspect (Key Points legislation) Occupational Health and Safety Act section 29 overrides this regulation.
How do we secure rights in law for trade union representatives to implement their Labour Relation Act 14(4) rights in a spontaneous/un-announced way?
10. Incident investigation
Section 32(5) (c) (VI)-participation of interested parties in inquiries and incident investigation.
Health and Safety are human rights issues. Introduce right for parties to conduct investigation in workplaces in order to give expression to this clause.
11. Advisory Council for Occupational Health and Safety (ACOHS) and the minister. ACOHS functions are limited to advising the Minister
ACOHS is insufficient-Need to establish inter-departmental forums (including Department of health and Department Environment and Tourism) to deal with environmental impact on communities surrounding workplace)
12. Rights of workers
Section14 (a)-Employees must take reasonable care must be qualified by their right to refuse dangerous work (and right to strike)
Section 30(1) (c) and 2 –OHS Act does not cover what will happen to workers who are not able to earn their wages when the Department of labour inspector prevents production or the operation of a particular machine.
13. Compensation rights relevant to Compensational for Occupational Injuries and Diseases act (Coida)
If a worker dies then compensation for beneficiaries must be 100% for life-time (to retirement) and must be increased and linked to inflation as if the person was still alive.
Where a worker takes early pension as a result of work related injury or disease the employer must continue to make full contribution for life to medical aid
If a worker dies as a result of work incident employer must take full responsibility to financially support the family(children up to 18 or 25 years)
Remove the protection of the employer from being sued for negligence where this negligence has been gross.
The draft document that was generated and developed from the workshop has been sent to all the regions and to Cosatu for submission to the Department of Labour.
Comrades are advised to familiarize themselves with the contents of the act and submissions and inputs made to effect amendments.
The process takes long as the work done by the unions has to be discussed at Nedlac before submission to parliament.
There was talk about merging the OHSA and Mine Health and Safety Act. The latest information that we have is that the merger has been called off and that this is a political decision.
Numsa News No 2 2010