Columnists Features

Who appreciates the tragedy of commons?

Workers’ Compensation Corner with MAYBIN NKHOLOMBA
ARISTOTLE once stated that what is common to most people will receive the least amount of care. In this case hazards in the environment are common to most people, but they receive the least amount of care.
In fact, it takes deliberate measures by those concerned with matters of health and safety to bring to the attention of all, the necessity of giving attention and due care to hazards in the work environment.
The underlying belief of the tragedy of commons is that free access with unrestricted use of any resource that is finite will ultimately ruin the resource through overexploitation.
Free access with unrestricted use of human resource, most probably to achieve business objectives that focus on profit seeking ends, without due care to hazards, can and does expose workers to occupational accidents and diseases.
Death or disability can result from occupational accidents and diseases to the extent of ruining human resource, at the expense of productivity. Hazards in the work environment are common to all, but who really appreciates them?
The National Occupational Safety Authority (NOSA) of South Africa does certainly count among those stakeholders that appreciate the tragedy of commons of hazards in the work environment.
For instance, their chief executive officer followed our article on health and safety in the Zambia Daily Mail on Tuesday last week, and offered three bursaries to our employees to undergo training in safety management.
This is the extent to which this tragedy of commons is appreciated by NOSA. Education of this nature is normally paid for but if it will be given at no cost, there must be something the provider has seen in those he or she elects to offer such support. Big thank you to NOSA indeed. We are confident that the training yet to be given to our employees will go a long way in augmenting the efforts that we have made to equip our staff with updated knowledge on safety management, and NOSA being an industry leader of training in safety will just be the right provider of education to us.
Readers may elect to learn that it is the primary objective of the Workers’ Compensation Fund Control Board (WCFCB) to compensate workers for employment-related injuries and diseases and therefore befitting to suggest that education of workers should be part of the WCFCB activities.
However, WCFCB can only provide education if it has the capacity to do so, hence the bursaries offered by NOSA have come at a time when we have been exploring ways to equip our staff with latest knowledge on safety.
This does not in any way inhibit employers or such other stakeholders from availing information on health and safety to their workers.
Employers must take keen interest in the welfare of their workers and ensure that sufficient information is given about protection policies at workplaces including workers’ compensation.
This information should be given in documents such as appointment letters as the case is with Konkola Copper Mines where we have been reliably informed that letters of appointment include a section on Workers Compensation Cover. Apart from letters of appointment, employers can elect to use the bottom part of payslips to inform workers about workers compensation.
For the benefit of readers, we searched the Workers’ Compensation Act to look for information on providing data to employees about compensation procedures and this is what we found in section 145: “Every employer, when so required by the Commissioner, shall cause to be affixed and at all times to be kept affixed in a conspicuous place where that employer’s workers are employed a clearly printed summary, in a form and language as the Commissioner may require, of the procedure laid down in this Act for the recovery of compensation in the event of an accident.”
Any employer who fails to comply with the provisions of section 145 commits an offence. Our timely advice to employers is that they should ensure affixation of compensation procedure at workplaces to avoid running into trouble with the law.
At the behest of the Workers’ Compensation Act, employers are required to affix the compensation procedure at workplaces for the education of workers, and in my opinion, this should form part of the health and safety posters that we often find at reception or waiting areas in most workplaces.
Workers’ compensation education like health and safety should actually be everyone’s business at the workplace. We should learn to borrow from our colleagues in the Western World who believe in going an extra mile to protect the lives of people at work and the environment in which they work.
The author is Workers’ Compensation Fund Control Board corporate affairs and customer services manager

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