Steel sector flouts labour laws, says Dept of Labour

The Department of Labour said on Friday that preliminary findings of the ongoing inspections of compliance by the South African iron and steel industry painted a picture of an industry “fraught with high disregard of labour legislation countrywide”.

A five-day blitz, launched on October 29, has so far “confirmed the sector’s reputation as being among the country’s occupational health and safety high-risk industries mainly through neglect”, the department said.

It said out of the 329 workplaces visited by Thursday, 224 were found to be flouting the law, with inspectors recording 262 various contraventions, and instantly halting operations at 14 sites.

KwaZulu-Natal appears to be the worst province, with 59 of the 77 visited workplaces not complying, prompting law-enforcement officials to recommend prosecution against at least one employer, the department said.

The Eastern Cape is the second worst, with only six of the 51 workplaces visited found to be conforming to the legislation.

“The iron and steel sector has always been on the radar screen since it was identified — together with the construction, farming and food and beverage sectors — as being among health and safety high-risk industries in 2005,” the department explained.

At the time, high-risk sectors were found to be contributing 22% of accidents and, though reductions have been recorded at some of them, experts still believe a fatality drop in the iron and steel sector would have a considerable impact on others as well.

Commenting on the latest findings on Friday, Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana once again stressed the importance of workers playing a proactive role in ensuring their own workplace safety.

“Safety is the responsibility of everyone. Every year we spend billions of rands compensating injured workers through the Compensation Fund for accidents that could have been easily avoided,” Mdladlana said.

“When injuries rise, production gets negatively affected causing profits to go down, which then results in jobs getting lost,” he said. — I-Net Bridge

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