Johannesburg: Government and key role players have signed an agreement that will reinforce adherence to stringent safety and health standards in the construction sector.
The Construction Health and Safety Accord agreement is part of the Department of Labour’s sector-specific accords which focus on the top four unsafe fields in the country, including iron and steel, agriculture as well as manufacturing.
Through the agreement, all parties acknowledge that they will contribute immensely to the improvement of health and safety issues in the workplace.
Government and labour federations have hailed the agreement, saying it was long overdue.
Speaking on behalf of government and also on behalf of the Department of Labour’s Director-General, Thabo Sefali, Chief Information Officer at the department, said the challenge to reduce non-compliance by the sector remained.
“Our focus therefore should be that we address the fact that at least one construction worker dies every week on a construction site as a direct result of non-compliance either by the client and/or contractor.”
Sefali said companies that worried about bread and butter issues and key aspects such as health and safety tended to suffer during dire periods, when the economy was turbulent.
Peter Baily, the National Union of Mineworkers’ health and safety chairperson, said they would remain committed to the agreement to ensure the safety of workers.
South African Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors (Safcec) representative Neville Gurry said it was imperative to prevent any loss of life.
“As Safcec, we are pleased with the agreement,” he added.
Department of Labour Chief Inspector of Occupational Health and Safety Thobile Lamati told SAnews that the signing of the agreement was an indication of the department’s commitment to ensuring adherence to safety issues.
“Through the agreement, all stakeholders recommit to workplace safety,” he said, noting that the accord also emphasised compliance with the law.
The Compensation Fund paid over R2.7 billion in the 2010/2011 year in compensation for injuries and diseases sustained in the workplace in the five high risk sectors.
The building and construction sector, identified as one of high risks sectors, paid more than R287 million for occupational injuries.
The department is currently reviewing legislation to stem the tide of workplace injuries and deaths, and is also intent on stepping up inspections and blitzes.
According to the Department of Labour, the collaborative approach with other stakeholders will ensure that all facets of occupational health and safety of employees, users and members of the public are taken into consideration when developing strategies to improve health and safety without compromise, whilst maintaining balance in ensuring construction sector growth.