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“The troubling question is why the occupational safety and health situation does not significantly improve even when professionals of a high calibre like engineers are involved. Many high calibre personnel have also been gravely injured and even died at work”.

The Herald edition of April 8, 2015 reported that according to information revealed by a Cabinet Minister, 98 people were killed in work-related accidents in 2014 while 5 491 were injured compared to 76 fatalities and 5 666 injuries in 2013.

This report was made after the Acting Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Cde Walter Chidhakwa had addressed Engineers at a National Social Security Authority (NSSA) workshop in Harare which took place from March 25 -27 2015, where he stated that the Government was gravely concerned about employers and workers who continue to ignore the life supporting minimum safety and health standards set by Government through legislation.

In this article, we shall give highlights on the minimum occupational safety and health legislation in Zimbabwe and analyse how prevention of the work-related accidents is critical to the society as a whole.

Every day, people all over the world die, are injured or become sick in the course of their work. Whose responsibility is it to reduce the number of accidents and exposures that give rise to these deaths, injuries and diseases?

The International Labour Organisation (ILO), from its very foundation in 1919, has always understood that there are several components of society that carry this responsibility. This of course is implicit and in its tripartite nature – it has always been clear that the problems of workplaces had to be tracked through the collaboration of governments and social partners (workers and employers).

The preamble of the International Labour Organisation (ILO)’s constitution specifies “the protection of the worker against sickness, disease and injury arising out of his employment” as one of the main tasks of the organisation, and over the years it has devoted a significant part of its efforts to do just that. More than 35 out of adopted ILO conventions deal with occupational safety and health issues.

Zimbabwe is a party to the International Labour Organisation conventions and the Government since 1980s has put in place life supporting minimum safety and health standards through the following legislation

Labour Act — Chapter 28:01

Factories and Works Act — Chapter 14:08

Environmental Management Act — Chapter 20:27

Pneumoconiosis Act — Chapter 15:08

Mines and Minerals Act — Chapter 21:05

The Mining (Management amp Safety) Regulations S.I 109 of 1990

The Mining (Health amp Sanitation) Regulations S.I. 185 of 1995

SI 68 of 1990 NSSA — (Accident Prevention)(Workers Compensation Scheme)

At a general level, occupational health and safety laws that are applicable to all employers and employees across sectors are the Labour Act, Chapter 28:01, Factories and Works Act Chapter 14:08 and NSSA (Accident Prevention) (Workers Compensation Scheme) Notice No. 68 of 1990

At a secondary level, there is the Protection from Smoking (Public Health) (Control of Tobacco) Regulations S.I.264 of 2002 that prohibits smoking in enclosed public places including workplaces and the Labour Relations (HIV and AIDS) regulations S.I.202 of 1998 repealed by SI 105 of 2014 which prohibits discrimination on the ground of AIDSHIV status, including:

Prohibition of mandatory testing for HIV as a precondition of employment

The duty to respect the confidentiality of HIV status of employees

The provision of protective clothing and other safety devices to prevent the spread of AIDSHIV at the workplace, including mandatory education and information sharing programmes

There are also sector-based occupational health and safety laws. These are laws specific to a particular sector whose objective is to supplement the general laws. These laws cover mining, other industries and agricultural sectors.

Mining Industry

The provisions for workplace safety are awarded under the Mines and Minerals Act, Chapter 21:05 and its regulations:

The Mining (Management amp Safety) Regulations S.I 109 of 1990

The Mining (Health amp Sanitation) Regulations S.I. 185 of 1995

Other Industries

The main pieces of Occupational Safety and Health legislation covering industry are the Pneumoconiosis Act (Chapter 15 08) and the Factories and Works Act, Chapter 14.08 and its regulations:

Factories and Works (General) Regulations S.I 263 of 1976

Factories and Works (Registration and Control of Factories) Regulations S.I 262 of 1976

Factories and Works (Machinery) Regulations S.I 302 of 1976

Factories and Works (Electrical) Regulations S.I 304 of 1976

Factories and Works (Building, structural and Excavation Work) Regulations S.I 264 of 1976

Factories and Works (Elevator and Escalator) Regulations S.I 263 of 1976

Agricultural Sector

There is no specific health and safety law for the agricultural sector. However, the Environmental Management Act, (Chapter 20:27) provides that every worker has a right to work in an environment that does not endanger his or her safety. The Act and its regulations also control usage, storage, labelling and disposal of hazardous substances and articles.

The collective bargaining agreement for the agriculture industry S.I 323 of 1993 requires employers to provide their employees with appropriate protective clothing and such devices to protect them from harmful substances.

To note that 98 people lost their lives in workplace accidents during 2014 prompts one to look at the issue from the broad perspective of the society as whole. We say so because work-related accidents does have the following far reaching consequences

a) Families, dependent children in particular, suffer enormously when a breadwinner dies.

b) Injured employee loses income because of temporary or permanent incapacity.

c) NSSA, through administration of social and insurance funds has to pay out enormous amounts through rehabilitation of accident victims.

d) Companies have to spend large sums of money retraining the victims as well as those replacing employees unable to do their former tasks. In addition firms may lose production capacity and customers of their products.

e) In some cases accidents also cause damages to the public and the environment.

According to The Herald edition of April 8 2015, based on statistics compiled by NSSA, which captures Occupational Safety and Health records in the country, Zimbabwe has recorded 24 866 work-related accidents which resulted in the death of 446 people between 2010 and 2014.

Acting Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Cde Walter Chidhakwa was quoted as saying: “We all agree these injuries and fatalities were and are still a burden to families and society as a whole, yet they were preventable”.

It is clear from Government’s perspective, that based on our prevailing Occupational Safety and Health legislation, work-related accidents are preventable and the impact of an accident does not stop with the victim — all of society is involved.

It is therefore our opinion that all segments of society should participate in the endeavour for safer and healthier workplaces.

According to The Herald edition of April 8 2015, the National Social Security Authority is implementing various strategies intended to bring to an end the numerous heinous occupational accidents, diseases and fatalities in factories, agriculture, mines, roads, rail tracks and many others.

The writers of this article are indeed grateful about the tireless efforts being displayed by the authority and in addition, we are encouraging all stakeholders within our society to follow the trend. In other words, promoting of high levels of occupational safety and health at the workplace is the responsibility of society as a whole and members of society must contribute to achieving this goal by ensuring that priority is given to occupational safety and health in national and works council agendas by building and maintaining a national preventative safety and health culture.

Furthermore, given the magnitude that occupational accidents leave to the society, we want to commend the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) for spearheading the theme “Building and Maintaining an Occupational Safety and Health Preventative Culture”.

Safety excellence is a strategic business decision and is fundamental to the overall direction, regardless of the purpose of the organisation, profit or not-for-profit. Safety is not a standalone strategy in business and we are recommending that it must be mainstreamed into individual organisations’ business strategies where both the employers and employees will behave in alignment with the intended strategic direction.

Many organisations do have effective strategic planning processes, however aligning occupational safety and health and business will go a long way in building and maintaining an occupational safety and health preventative culture.

Matthias Ruziwa and Alyson Martens are experienced and growing Strategic Human Resource Practitioners.

Both are practicing in the Midlands Province, City of Kwekwe.

Opinions expressed herein are solely those of the authors

You can contact either Matthias or Alyson at the following email addresses:

Feedback: mruziwa@gmail.com whatsapp 0773 470 368 and alyson.martens@hotmail.com

Source : The Herald