Johannesburg - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) said on Monday that at least seven workers were injured when a furnace exploded at Fortune Steel in Nigel in Ekurhuleni and called for the company's operations to be closed until an investigation by the Department of Labour had proved the environment was safe to work in.
Numsa said that the incident occurred on Saturday during the night shift, less than 24 hours after the union marched and protested against the company on Friday. Fortune Steel is part of Fortune Group, a steel company based in India. Numsa has accused the company of flouting basic health and safety laws, as well as ignoring labour laws.
"One of the workers who was injured in the blast is in critical condition at a Hospital in Alberton after he sustained extensive injuries to the head, chest and arms. As is usually the case, the management tried to cover up this incident," said Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, Numsa acting national spokesperson. "They refused to call the ambulance and attempted to transport the injured themselves using private vehicles. It was only with the intervention of the local police that workers received medical care provided for by the ambulances. The management had the audacity to try and down play the accident as a minor workplace issue."
Fortune Steel was not immediately available to respond to these allegations.
Hlubi-Majola said Fortune Steel had proven to be "the most abusive employer" that the union has dealt with, out of all the companies in the entire Nigel area, since it began operating in South Africa in February 2017. She said that if the officials of the Department of Labour (DOL) in Nigel had taken the complaints of the workers seriously and intervened, this accident would probably never have happened.
"Fortune Steel has demonstrated a total disregard for the well-being of workers and their safety. As Numsa, we condemn the Department of Labour for failing to protect workers," Hlubi-Majola said, adding that Numsa has recorded at least 70 cases of unlawful dismissal, with at least 19 of those employees fired because they sustained injuries on the job and were never compensated.
"Numsa demands that Fortune Steel must be shut down immediately until a full investigation has been concluded by the DOL confirming that the environment is safe to work in. Numsa is calling on the Indian Embassy to intervene on this issue. "
African News Agency/ANA