MEMBERS of the incoming National Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) say they are under no illusions on the magnitude of the task at hand in addressing occupational safety challenges in the country.
The committee, which is a statutory body established to advise and assist the Minister of Labour and Employment on occupational safety and health (OSH) matters, met for the first time on Thursday in the presence of Labour and Employment Minister Advocate Thulo Mahlakeng.
NACOSH is a statutory tripartite body established under section 46 of the Labour Code of 1992, with its members appointed from the three constituencies that make up the tripartite labour structure. The 14-member committee serves for a four-year term.
In his remarks during the meeting, a member of the committee, Solong Senohe, from the employees’ constituency, said there were a host of OSH issues that needed their swift attention in order to promote harmony between employers and employees.
He said one of them was old and outdated laws regulating occupational safety and health issues in the workplace.
In particular, Mr Senohe alluded to the Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1977, which he said was too outdated and its compensation provisions were no longer relevant in today’s world.
“The Act provides for too little compensation in the event that an employee loses his life in the line of work. The compensation which the Act provides to the family of the deceased breadwinner might have been enough back in 1977, but today that money is just too little to ensure that those whose are left behind are well taken care of,” Mr Senohe said.
He further indicated that since the Mines Safety Act of 1981 was promulgated long before Lesotho had a bustling mining industry, specific occupational safety and health issues related to the industry had not been sufficiently covered by the law.
“For instance, there is not enough coverage on how the employees should be protected from some of the harmful chemicals that are used in the mining industry.
“Again, we have heard cases where employees are compelled to buy their own protective clothing at work, and that is wrong. There are just examples of many issues across different sectors with regards to occupational safety and health.”
Mr Senohe indicated the provision of protective clothing to employees was particularly urgent in the construction sector.
“We are hoping to tackle many of them by bringing them to the attention of the minister during our tenure in office,” he added.
For his part, Mr Mahlakeng said NACOSH had played an instrumental role in the development of standards to give guidance on OSH issues.
He said such standards included the Labour Code Noise Regulations of 1996, Labour Code construction Regulations of 2002 and the Labour Code Amendment Act of 2006 and the HIV/AIDS Policy Formulation Guidelines of 2010.
Adv Mahlakeng further indicated that Lesotho had ratified International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 155 which deals with occupational safety and health and the working conditions as well as Convention 167 which deals with safety and health in construction.
“As we all know, occupational safety and health is a field whose main purpose is the prevention of accidents and ill health, protection of employers and workers as well as assurance of their welfare,” he said.
“I wish to remind you that workplace accidents do not cause physical and emotional suffering but also have a negative a negative impact in the economy of a country.”
Adv Mahlakeng said employees experienced trauma when their colleagues get injured at the workplace.
“In the same manner, company production is affected negatively due to sick leaves and injured personnel get,” Adv Mahlakeng said.
“It is important for awareness campaigns on OSH to be done to realize their objective of preventing and protecting against workplace injuries and illnesses.”
If carried out effectively, he said, awareness campaigns would combat a number of unwarranted work-related health diseases and minimize work-related injuries.
“Most importantly, we need to promote a culture of safety whereby everyone in the workplace is expected to have a stake in the OSH through well-defined strategies and management systems,” Adv Mahlakeng said.
The 14 members of NACOSH are Tlalane Ramaema, A.L. Makhothi, Seboka Thamae, Pheello Tjatja, Hlalele Tšolo, Stephen Monyamane, Motšelisi Pelesa, Tlali Mpholo, Koali Koali, Teleko Senauoane, Raymond Lesitsi Mothepu, Solong Senohe, Makhema Leboela and Motšoane Nkotsi.