Occupational Health and Safety: briefing

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Employment and Labour

19 August 2002
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LABOUR PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
20 August 2002
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY: BRIEFING

Acting Chairperson:
Mr D Oliphant

Relevant documents:
Occupational Health and Safety briefing

SUMMARY
An outline of the priorities of the Chief Directorate of Occupational Health and Safety for 2002 was provided by a delegation from the Department of Labour.

The Committee's request for a briefing on HIV/AIDS was not provided as the Department said that the documentation was not complete. The Department was taken to task for this omission.

MINUTES
Dr. Mkosana, the Deputy Director-General represented the Department, along with OHS Executive Managers, Mr. Pudikabekwa,  Mr. Malatse and Mr. Curtis. The briefing followed the Powerpoint presentation (see document).

Prior to the briefing, the Chair asked why the promised briefing on HIV/AIDS had not taken place.

Dr Mkosana replied that there are still some outstanding issues in the documentation.

Mr. Mshudulu (ANC) shared the Chair’s sentiment that this committee cannot function properly if the Department of Labour decides what information will be made available to members. He said this was an example of steam-rolling by the Department. When the committee asks for a presentation, the Department of Labour has to deliver. Mr. Durand (NNP) echoed Mr. Mshudulu’s feelings that this was unacceptable behaviour by the Department.

Mr. Pillay (DP) asked whether the Department is competent enough to do its job. He wanted to know when exactly this information would be available to the committee. He also inquired about the reported staff shortage in the Department of Labour.

Dr Mkosana apologised for the delay and said that they had not wanted to present incomplete work.

The Chair asked for a specific time frame for this document and whether the delegation was shying away from the issue.

Mr. Pillay again asked if the Department is hiding something. He added that the committee wants to know what the government is doing about AIDS.

After the briefing on OHS, Mr. Mshudulu noted that staffing in the directorate was an issue for concern . He also asked about the availability of information on companies that fall into a high-risk OHS category. He felt that the committee needs this type of information to make informed decisions.

Mr. Pillay referred to the very successful inspections made by the Gauteng Provincial Office and asked what it would take to have these efficient inspections in all the other provinces.

Dr Mkosana explained that since April the Department’s focus had been on helping companies to set up OHS representatives and making them aware of their duties. From now on the Department would be stricter.

Mr. Pudikabekwa explained that there is a strong focus on social partnerships. That is why the Occupational Health Forums were created. Employers are still ignorant or confused about the OHS representatives. It is unclear whether they represent the employer or the workers. Therefore there is a great need to create and staff the Labour centres in the different provinces.

The Chair commented that the issue of in-house training was very vague in their briefing. He asked how soon it is going to happen and whether they are training only their own staff or whether they are taking in people off the street.

Mr. Mshudulu asked whether there is a list of high-risk OHS areas in the provinces.

Mr. Pudikabekwa answered that there is such a list and it is available. He explained that the in-house training is geared towards getting people trained from outside the department. He added that poaching of trained inspectors is happening and there is currently not much they can do about that.

Mr. Curtis explained that the Department’s inspectors are integrated. They all receive the same training before they specialise. An OHS-specialist will have a tertiary diploma or degree. The Department has also made bursaries available for students who will after their studies become inspectors.

The Chair then asked for a timeframe for the Learnership Programme.

Mr. Durand inquired about OHS in mining and asked if there are any plans to integrate the inspectors from the Minerals and Energy Department and Labour. Does the Department plan to use its expertise for consulting?

Mr. Pillay asked who is responsible for OHS at Koeberg nuclear plant. He also wanted clarity on the rumour of  a 67% staffing shortage in the Department of Labour.

Mr. Pudikabekwa replied that the staff shortage is currently 41%. The timeframe for the Learnership Programme is six months. Koeberg has its own regulator which is not part of his Department.

Mr. Durand asked for a timeframe for the integration of mining safety regulators and whether it should happen.

The Chair asked why mining and nuclear OHS directorates are separated from the Department of Labour.

Mr. Malatse acknowledged that there is fragmentation and that they are looking at it. He mentioned that Koeberg is the responsibility of the South African National Defence Force.

Mr. Mshudulu requested that the committee be updated on OHS progress and suggested that members could perhaps join some of the upcoming workshops to ensure they know exactly what is going on.

Meeting adjourned.

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