Department of Labour brings chemical sector together to craft a strategy to stem casualty list
11 Aug 2011The rise in occupational incidence has prompted the Department of Labour (DoL) to host a Chemical Safety Seminar on the state of the industry to highlight measures which could be instituted to stem safety breaches.
Department of Labour’s Deputy Director: Health and Hygiene Elize Lourens said the rise in the incidents was becoming a worrying trend. She said the chemical sector had now been identified as one of six high risk sectors. She said it was for this reason that the department’s inspection and enforcement branch had also identified the sector as another focal point in the current financial year when it conducts inspection blitz.
Figures by the Compensation Fund, an entity of the Department of Labour showed that a total of 872 720 claims were lodged in the period for April 2010 to March 2011. In the financial year 2008/09 the fund paid R2,1 billion off claims to employers and service providers in the financial year and this rose to about R2,3 billlion in the period 2009/10.
The fund provide for compensation for disablement caused by occupational injuries or diseases sustained or contracted by employees in the course of their employment, or for death resulting from such injuries or diseases among others.
Other high risks sectors identified include iron and steel; transport; agriculture and forestry; building and construction; plus foods, drink and tobacco industries.
The Chemical Safety Seminar will be held at the Emerald Casino in Vanderbijlpark, Gauteng Province. It will be held from 8 to 9 September starting at 8am.
“Every year many workers are injured, become ill or are killed because of exposure to harmful chemical substances. These incidents cause human suffering, loss of production and high medical cost. Assistance and guidance should be provided to employers and workers to promote a safe and healthy work environment and to prevent injuries and diseases,” Lourens said.
According to Lourens information sourced from the Compensation Fund showed that during the period April 2010 to March 2011 more that 40 000 claims were made to the fund for injuries and/or diseases in the Chemical Sector alone. Of these more than 32 000 claims were paid more than R105 million.
Lourens said injuries from chemicals are often very serious resulting in workers not being able to return to the work force once their injuries have healed - leaving them partially of totally disabled if they live.
In an endeavour to unpack the dilemma the department has lined-up a high level team of speakers to address the seminar under the stewardship of Alvin Philips who will chair the session on the first day.
The seminar will be opened by the Department of Labour’s deputy director general of inspection and enforcement services (IES) Siyanda Nxawe whose talk will focus on the branch’s purpose and vision; Department of Labour's Manager for Health and Hygiene Milly Ruiters (high risk of chemical industries); Lourens will address on (findings of the chemical sector blitz).
Chemical Energy Paper Printing Wood and Allied Workers Union (Ceppwawu) official Pelelo Magane will deliver a paper on (trade union view on health and safety in the chemical sector; Gauteng Health Department official Jaco Pieterse (assessing health risks of chemicals); Department of Labour’s Mr Kenny Fick will provide (overview of hygiene chemical and substances).
The seminar will also be addressed by Dr Bayanda Mbambisa from Wits University (on a case study on the initial management of ocular chemicals burns in an academic hospital); Responsible Packaging Management Association of South Africa (RPMAS) Director Liz Anderson will present on (basic principles of Global Harmonizing System).
Bulelwa Huna, Department of Labour Deputy Director of Health and Hygiene (H&H): Health and Hygiene will close the day’s session with an overview of the day’s proceedings.
The second day of the seminar will be graced by the presence of a lecturer from the North West University Johan du Plessis who will present on (occupational exposure limits for chemicals); National Institute for Occupational Health officialIna Naik will demonstrate (how to utilise Stoffenmanager - a software programme used to indicate the degree of chemical hazards); Chemical and Allied Industries Association (CAIA) official Louise Lindeque will offer a sypnosis on (Industry perspective on occupational health & safety).
Lourens will also on the second day deliver a paper on (criteria for asbestos contractor applications); Department of Labour official Jeaneth Masete will present on (practical handling and storage of hazardous chemicals); while the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH) official Adriaan Greyling will present on (air monitoring during asbestos work).
The seminar will conclude with a summary presentation by Department of Labour Beverley Homan.
The department expects 300 delegates to attend the seminar. These will include representatives from the department itself including inspectors; industry representatives; trade union representatives; Chemical and Allied Industries Association (CAIA) officials; Responsible Packaging Management Association of South Africa; the South African Institute for Occupational Hygiene; occupational hygienists; Occupational Medical Practitioners; and the Occupational Health Nurses.
Although the legislative status quo governing the Chemical Sector will prevail for now, Lourens expects legislation on the sector to come under review over the next 18 months. She said the importance of hazardous chemical substances monitoring could not be underestimated especially when lives are at risk due to chemical exposure and injuries in the workplace.
For more information on the seminar contact:
Tel: 012 309 4408
Source: Department of Labour
Issued by: Department of Labour
11 Aug 2011
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