WORKERS' COMPESANTION CORNER with MAYBIN NKHOLMBA
A SERIOUS workplace injury or death changes lives forever – for families, friends, communities, and fellow workers too. Human loss and suffering is immeasurable. Occupational injuries and illnesses can provoke major crises for the families in which they occur. In addition to major financial burdens, they can impose substantial time demands on uninjured family members.
That is precisely the reason for every person who leaves for work in the morning to be expected to return home in good health. Can you imagine the knock on the door to tell you your loved one will never be returning home? Or the phone call to say he’s in the hospital and may never walk again? Ensuring that husbands return to their wives, wives to their husbands, parents to their children, and friends to their friends — that is the most important reason to create a safe and healthy work environment.
Thanks to the minister of Labour and Social Security Joyce Nonde Simukoko who has relentlessly emphasised the importance of safety at work, to the extent of making public pronouncements on the formation of health committees at work. The minister has gone to the extent of conducting impromptu health and safety checks at various work places because she understands much as we do that if a worker is injured on the job, it costs the company in lost work hours, increased insurance rates, workers’ compensation premiums and possible litigation.
Productivity is lost when other workers have to stop work to deal with the injury. Even after the injured employee has been sent home or taken to the hospital, other employees may be distracted or need to take time off from work in the aftermath of the incident. Even a single injury can have far-reaching and debilitating effects on family, business and society.
That is why minister of Labour & Social Security Joyce Nonde Simukoko, has stepped in to create an environment that promotes health and safety at work places. We have taken keen interest in the subject of health and safety because it is of utmost concern to us.
According to the provisions of the Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) Act No. 36 of 2010 and the Workers’ Compensation Act No. 10 of 1999, the promotion of health and safety at the workplace is key.
Under Part III of the OHS Act, an employer of 10 or more persons at any workplace is mandated to establish a health & safety committee. In addition, the Workers’ Compensation Fund Control Board (WCFCB) has been mandated under Part III, section 11(3)-b of the Workers’ Compensation Act to foster;
• The prevention of accidents or any diseases which are due to the nature of any occupation and
• The promotion of the health or safety of workers
In order to adhere to the call by the minister on the formation of health and safety committees at work, the WCFCB has been carrying out statutory site safety inspections at various workplaces across the country. The aim of these inspections is the promotion of health & safety at the workplace with a view to preventing and reducing workplace accidents. As at 30th June 2017, WCFCB carried out 44 site safety inspections at various companies. The major finding apart from the low levels of personal protective equipment (PPE) compliance, was the non-functional safety committees. In about 75% of the companies visited, Safety Committees were non-existent while in the remaining 25%, Safety Committees were present but non-functional. On the WCFCB safety model checklist, Safety Committees and Health & Safety policies rate high, as this is proof of management’s commitment towards issues of health and safety at the workplace.
The formation of committees at work follow Part III, Section 12 of the OHS Act, which provide that a health & safety committee should;
– Consist of an equal number of members, not less than two on each side, representing the employer and the employees, provided that the representatives of the employees shall be chosen by the employees or designated by a trade union; and
– Be chaired by a person elected from amongst the employee representatives or by the employer or the senior most member of management on an alternating basis.
The functions of the health & safety committees are to;
a) Promote cooperation between the employer and the employees in achieving and maintaining healthy and safe working conditions;
b) Share information about occupational health, safety and welfare with employees
c) Investigate and resolve any matter that may be a risk to health and safety of employees at a workplace;
d) Review the measures taken on health and safety of employees at a workplace; and
e) Formulate, review and disseminate to the employees the standards, rules and procedures relating to health and safety to be carried out at the workplace.
The author is the Head Communications and Customer Services at Workers Compensation Fund Control Board; email firstname.lastname@example.org