Statement: Department of Labour on the throes of unveiling new explosives legislation

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The Department of Labour plans to conclude the process leading to the repeal of the old explosives legislation before the end of the current financial year.

Department of Labour Deputy Director-General: Inspector and Enforcement (IES) Siyanda Nxawe has expressed concern at the uptick in the number of occupational incidents especially of explosive nature in South Africa, putting into question the safety of workers in the workplaces.

She said the economic cost to the country was devastating. Nxawe said the number and value of claims at the Compensation Fund – a departmental entity responsible for claims arising from injuries in the workplace – have shown a drastic increase.

Figures by the Compensation Fund showed that the amount of claims paid to employers and service providers in the financial year 2008/09 were R2,1 billion and this increased in the 2009/10 to more than R2,1 billion. The Department Labour said the avoidable incident continue to place a significant burden on the country’s healthcare system.

Nxawe was addressing the third annual Explosives Manager Safety Forum held at the Midrand Conference Centre today (5 July 2011) under the theme: “Long walk to safety”.

The Deputy Director-General IES told the conference that it was not the intention of the department to prosecute where there was flouting of legislation, “but when the need arise we will have to take the painful route and do so”.

The annual gathering was being used as part of a process to generate inputs from delegates in order to promulgate a new explosives act and accompanying regulations.

The review of the 1993 Explosives Act is currently with the department’s Safety and Occupation Advice Council. The council is expected to call for public comment over the next few weeks and this will be followed by the minister’s stamp of approval before it is presented to Parliament.

Nxawe said the impact of explosive incidents poses a socio-economic burden to the country, something she said should be avoided at all costs.

She has also lamented the shortage of human resources within the department’s IES directorate, saying it had some 1 072 inspectors nationally specialising in various fields. She said in the short-term her wish was to see the recruitment of at least 500 new inspectors to beef capacity.

The areas of speciality include: engineering sector, explosives, civil engineering, health and hygiene among others.

Dr Frikkie Mostert the Principal researcher from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) told the conference that the challenge facing people handling explosives were threats posed by managerial capacity and threats to human life outside of the testing area.

Lieutenant Colonel Jurie van Staden, acting chief inspector in the Chief Inspectorate of explosives in the South African Police Services (SAPS) highlighted a number of challenges faced in the management of explosives. Van Staden listed these as including the appointment of responsible person(s), their registration, and legal responsibilities.

Enquiries:

Page Boikanyo (Departmental Spokesperson)

Cell: 082 809 3195

Issued by: Department of Labour
5 Jul 2011