19 February 2013

South Africa: Labour Inspectors to Be Given Teeth As Department of Labour (DOL) Embarks On Regulation and Policy Amendments

press release

South Africa's labour inspectors are to be empowered to press for prosecution to ensure compliance with Occupation Health and Safety Act (OHSA), as part of the amendment of the act, said Department of Labour (DoL) Acting Deputy Director-General: Inspection & Enforcement Services Thobile Lamati.

Lamati said for years a number of companies had been budgeting for fines in defiance and disregard of the law and this would be a thing of the past. The OHSA is one among a raft of labour legislation currently under review. Some of the laws being amended include: the Labour Relations Act, Basic Conditions of Employment Act, the Employment Equity Act, and the newly-introduced Public Employment Services Bill.

The Acting Deputy Director-General said the new Major Hazard Installation (MHI) regulations would also soon be put in place to provide an enabling medium for a safe working environment and protection of society.

Lamati said South Africa's current MHI regulation regime does not appropriately address challenges facing the occupational health and safety environment.

He was addressing an MHI Seminar on the theme: "Managing our Risk", being hosted by the SA's Department of Labour at Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg. The chief inspector said it was critical to use various platforms to interact with stakeholders and bring them up to speed with new developments in the MHI sector.

"As a department, in times of economic distress and upheavals, we need to keep a vigilant watch on major MHI digressions to ensure safety of workers and the public, major debates have been raging on over what types of installations qualify as MHI. The new regulations coming into force very soon will deal with a number of grey areas and provide clarity. We want to draw mainly from the experience of industry. The new regulations should not be a reflection of the thinking of the department," Lamati said.

He said another initiative in the pipeline was the development of a database of MHI's in South Africa to help mitigate risks posed by such installations. According to Lamati the long-term objective was to have an industry self-regulating itself. He argued that the MHI was not a huge sector per se.

Dylan Campbell, a Risk Engineer at PetroSA told the seminar that South Africa had unclear and non-specific MHI regulatory environment. He cautioned on the development of a regulatory environment that could create barriers to trade.

Campbell said South Africa places responsibility on local authorities to control developments around MHI's and these regulations were poorly enforced.

"In SA, the MHI process is detached from the planning process and therefore MHI's are rarely considered in land planning," said Campbell that if South Africa was to move to a better regulation of MHI's a number of ingredients were needed.

He said some of the ingredients include: good regulation, focus on high hazard organisations, competent and appropriately staffed organisations; a bigger, more competent Department of Labour and an integrated approach to land use planning driven by local planning authorities.

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