Lack of workplace behaviour change is driving Covid-19 infections at work.

“Eleven months into the lockdown and despite advocacy work by the Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES), there remains, tragically, little or no movement in improvement in Occupational Health and Safety in both the public and private sector,” the Department of Employment and Labour said in a statement.

According to the department, its latest report on the IES paints a gloomy picture and it shows that employers continue to break the rules and with little or no change despite the high level of exposure to OHS in the media and other on-line platforms.

The department’s Inspector General, Aggy Moiloa said the sum total of this lack of compliance reflects on the figures which show a rising tide in claims which have been submitted to the Compensation Fund.

“The flouting of compliance protocols is therefore not a victimless or non-consequential cutting of corners. It has real tragic results of families deprived of breadwinners and some facing dire situations as a result,” said Moiloa.

Figures also show that “workers in the public sector stand a greater chance of either contracting the virus and/or dying from the virus during the 2nd and 3rd phase.  The sad part of it is that history in this short timespan will repeat itself,” said Moiloa.

“Out of a total of 26 669 inspections carried out in both the public and private sector, only 57% complied with safety protocols. In total, 11 811 workplaces were found to be non-compliant and 14 858 were compliant. The inspections were conducted in both the private sector and the public sector – with 4674 inspections in the public sector and 21995 in the private sector.  The overall compliance rate for the period stood at a constant 56% since 1 April 2020 and 28 February 2021,” she added.

At a glance, the published figures show the following trends:

WC, FS and KZN conducted the highest percentages of inspections, claiming 21%, 20% and 19% of the total inspections, respectively.

The highest levels of compliance are in the GP, EC and FS at 86%, 71% and 57% respectively.

The highest non-compliance levels are in the MP, LP and NC at 66%, 64% and 59% respectively.

In the private sector, figures show the following trends:

The wholesale and retail sector has the highest percentage of inspections claiming 41% of the inspections carried out in the private sector. The sector has a compliance rate of 55%. At least 15% of all inspections done in the private sector was done in construction.

The construction achieved a 76% compliance rate, a percentage drop over the previous month.

Manufacturing continues to have a poor showing, at a 49% rate of compliance.

The percentage of follow up inspections of non – compliance is only 6.5%

In the public sector, the level of compliance stood at only 40% with only 1889 workplaces complying out of the 4 674 that were inspected.

Meanwhile, the Compensation Fund has noted a rise in claims that have been received with close to 20 000 overall received of which 50 relate to death claims.

The Compensation Fund on its own has received 14 377 claims of which 37 were of fatalities and the trends show females being the highest affected at 79% against 21% male. Figures recorded by Rand Mutual show a total of 4665 claims with 10 fatalities, but the female and male ratio is inverted with 74% of males affected against 26% of females. This inversion is the function of the industry these bodies which are licenced by the Ministry of Employment and Labour represent in mining, iron and steel, construction.

With regard to Federated Employers, 522 claims have been received of which 3 are of fatalities and 78% of males affected.

Close to R43-million has been paid out and this is broken down to:

R3 262 990 for Temporary Total Disablement

R119, 433 paid in Permanent disablement pensions

R11 885 170 paid in medical aid claims

R160 908 in death benefits, and

R27 460 112 paid out in dependant benefits

Vuyo Mafata, the Commissioner of the Compensation Fund, said while these figures represent 1.28% of the country’s COVID19 numbers, they represent real humans whose death and suffering could have been avoided had all the protocols been followed as they should. He also added that it is cold comfort that the number of fatalities, seen against the total figure of the pandemic fatality represent only 0.10%, again, there are real human beings behind these deaths.

“Despite the poor levels of compliance, we are of the view that without the inspections that we have done, the figures of incidences and fatalities reported would have been much worse had we folded our arms during the lockdown. We urge employers to ensure that all protocols are followed and we also urge employees to play a proactive role and blow a whistle to unsafe working places. Employees, through their representatives should report conditions which expose them to danger to our inspectors,” said Mafata.

 

 

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