The Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) has said that they are concerned about unsafe working conditions in South Africa.
The union says that while South Africa has world-class legislation that makes it mandatory for businesses and places of work to have safe and healthy environments for workers, regular and blatant flouting of these regulations has become the order of the day.
The federation said that over the last decade, corruption has become more rampant, with many of the government’s oversight bodies being undermined for nefarious reasons, thus limiting its own ability to enforce regulations and ensure safe workspaces.
“The recent flooding in KwaZulu-Natal in particular has shown how many businesses have not built environments that are secure to work in during adverse weather events, leading to avoidable death and destruction,” the union said.
Moreover, the union said that the effects of global climate change, pandemics and various other crises continue to impact us with increasing regularity, and it is more important than ever that a renewed focus is placed on occupational health and safety in workplaces across the country, to ensure that the harm is limited during the next crises.
Fedusa said that the government should acknowledge that it has blood on its hands and has exacerbated job losses, income insecurity, destruction of infrastructure, collapse of businesses, stalled economic growth, failure to protect school-going children who are faced with catch-up programmes due to Covid-19, and a dismal response time to restore service delivery.
“Beyond large crises like the pandemic or floods, hearing loss, tuberculosis and hazardous chemical exposure related diseases remain the top causes of occupational disease claims, ignoring the many cases that go unclaimed due to exploitative practices,” said Fedusa.
The union said that many of the diseases are easily avoidable with appropriate protective equipment, which shows the contempt many employers have for the health and safety of their employees.
“Minister Thulas Nxesi outlined in his report on the State of Occupational Health and Safety, on 28 July 2021, that 92 fatalities were recorded, a total of 26 073 claims were submitted to the Compensation Fund and disbursements amounting to just under R90 million were issued. Cry the beloved country!” added Fedusa.
The union said that the degradation of health and occupational safety is a crisis that must be addressed with conviction.
“Urgent interventions and stringent enforcement, by strengthening of regulatory entities, and where appropriate, adapting laws and regulations to make it easier to prevent abuse must be implemented without fear or favour,” the union said.
The union further called on business to proactively clean up their act and stop creating dangerous environments for workers in the pursuit of excessive profits.