COSATU is concerned by the unacceptable health and safety risks workers are being subjected to

30 November 2023

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) joins the Federation’s North West Leadership in offering our sympathies to the families of the eleven mine workers who tragically lost their lives at Bafokeng Impala this week.  We wish those injured a speedy recovery.  We are deeply concerned by the unacceptable health and safety risks countless workers are being subjected to. 

It is critical a thorough investigation be undertaken to ascertain the full causes for this tragic loss.  Lessons must be learned to prevent such recurrences in future.  Allegations of the employer failing to ensure lift cage was properly serviced, whether safety protocols were adhered to and if it was safe to carry workers need to be investigated.  The investigation must be independent, comprehensive and available to the public.

The employer must ensure families of the deceased and injured are fully compensated and assisted in processing their claims as well as cover the resulting funeral costs and medical bills.  We are deeply concerned about reported delays in the employer informing affected workers’ families of this tragedy.  COSATU’s Affiliate, the National Union of Mineworkers will continue assisting workers and their families in these processes. 

Whilst progress has been made in reducing the number of mine fatalities and injuries over the years, much more remains to be done.  The tragedy this week has brought the total fatalities for 2023 in the mining industry to 52, exceeding 2022’s 49 loss of life.

A similar sense of introspection is needed with the risks other workers experience when earning their salaries, in particular members of the Police and Correctional Services as well as health workers, traffic officers, teachers and women workers who are exposed to horrific levels of violence and serious dangers on a daily basis.  Seventy police officers have been lost to criminal attacks over the last seven months alone.  This is over double the 34 officers who were lost in the previous financial year. 

It is time our laws were overhauled and strengthened to ensure workers’ lives are protected.  This includes our Affiliate, the Police and Prisons Officers’ Civil Rights Union (POPCRU)’s call for the maximum sentencing and no parole for persons charged and/ or convicted of attacks on law enforcement officers. 

The Departments of Employment and Labour as well as Mineral Resources and Energy need to be nudged from the corners of complacency, and table at Parliament the long delayed Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Bill and the Mine Health and Safety Amendment Bill which provide critical provisions recognising the rights of workers to refuse dangerous unprotected work and strengthen obligations upon employers to provide a safe work place.  It is key that employers comply with health and safety standards, are fined when they fail to do so, that workplace fatalities involving criminal negligence are dealt with as culpable homicide.

Treasury needs to adequately resource these two Departments’ Labour plus Health and Safety Inspectorates to ensure they are able to fulfil their mandates, inspect workplaces and hold delinquent employers accountable.  Inspections needs to be intensified in the mining sector to ensure employers comply with health and safety standards. The inspectorate plays a crucial role in enforcing workplace health and safety standards and the protection of workers.  They must be independent, capacitated and fearless.  The Inspectorate must recognize the critical role played by workplace OHS representatives and unions and involve them in their workplace inspections, investigations and accident inquiries.

It is time workers’ lives are valued and not treated as collateral damage by employers in pursuit of their shameful lust for profits.

Issued by COSATU

For further information please contact:
Matthew Parks
Acting National Spokesperson & Parliamentary Coordinator
Cell: 082 785 0687