Safety rules can only be effective when a safe working environment is guaranteed and, if necessary Personal Protective Equipment is provided. The tale of Joseph Modise proves it all; he claims he lost his eye-sight due to the absence of proper PPE.
Safety rules apply to both employers and employees, but they are often neglected. The story of Joseph Modise appeared in a national newspaper yesterday. He claims that he never received the proper tools to do his job properly. Joseph was responsible for cleaning a municipal sewerage plant which he had to do barehanded as he was never provided with appropriate personal protective equipment like gloves and safety glasses. He was also never vaccinated against possible diseases that could have arisen from his occupation.
An acidic waste-water that gushed over his face and body has now left him permanently blind.
What made matters worse for Joseph is that his employer has not reported his injury to the Department of Labour. Reporting incidents like this are, however, compulsory. Joseph is now not receiving compensation as the Workmen's Compensation Fund never received any documentation.
Much can be said about Joseph being willing to do the job without being adequately equipped. However, Joseph is probably one of thousands of labourers in South Africa who are too scared to stand up for their rights and well-being. They are, often, too happy to have a job and can't afford the risk of losing it when standing up for their rights. It is a claim that is often heard, these days South Africans try to justify the attacks on foreigners 'who are taking about their jobs as they are willing to work for next to nothing'.
Health and safety consultants like those of MAKROSAFE often come across situations where no or inadequate personal protective equipment is provided. The presence or absence of PPE is, however, the easiest way to determine if a workplace is compliant.
The failure to report Joseph's case to the Workmen's Compensation Fund is a serious mistake. This could, normally, cost the employer dearly as each incident on duty needs to be reported. Inspectors of the Department of Labour have no mercy with employers who are non-compliant and, clearly, show little interest in guaranteeing the well-being of their employees. Once a case like this comes to their attention, they often start a complete health and safety audit to determine compliance and review the safety rules that are followed.
They will question employers of employees who have been provided with adequate training and whether risk assessments are conducted regularly. Health and safety check-lists are scrutinized and walk-rounds are conducted to checking signage's and evacuation plans. Appointment letters for health and safety representatives will have to be produced so will an overview of all incidents reported. In the end, regardless how well the employer will be able to state his case, they will always be the loser.
The good news for Joseph is that his case recently came to the attention of the Department of Labour. A case has now been opened with the Workmen's Compensation Fund and his employer will soon be investigated.
Don't take chances. Better be safe than sorry. Talk to us when you want to take preventative action because sooner or later, you will receive a knock on your door. Don't make it slam in your own face.
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