Fume against poison

2010-07-17 14:48


Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) is gravely disturbed by the

report “Living under a cloud of toxic poison” in City Press of July 11


The report refers to Thermopower

Technology, a medical waste treatment plant, which is violating environmental

standards, poisoning the local water supply and undermining workplace health and

safety standards.

Waste management is

one of the most significant challenges facing South Africa today.

The release of

toxic waste and the pollution of the environment poses a danger to the health of


And every worker and

resident has a role to play in waste management, either in the workplace or in

the community.

The Occupational

Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993, section 8, states that every employer must

provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risk to the

health of the employees, eliminate any potential hazard to the health and safety

of employees, before resorting to personal protective clothing, and also conduct

a risk assessment to determine all risks in the workplace.

The act further

states that the employer must inform, instruct, train and supervise all the

tasks that are hazardous to the health and safety of his employees.

According to the

workers’ complaints these statutory requirements weren’t adhered to by

Thermopower management.

The environment

within the company is not safe for workers to work in, but the key question is:

Is an inspector from the labour department going to insect the factory?

Section 5 of the

Environmental Regulations in the Workplace states clearly that the employer must

ensure that every workplace is ventilated, either by natural or mechanical

means, in such a way that the air breathed by the workers does not endanger

their health and safety.

If and when workers

get exposed to hazardous fumes, the employer must do what is necessary to assess

the risk.

And when the employer is not able to eliminate the hazard, then, by

law, he can provide respiratory protective equipment which must be monitored and

changed at stipulated intervals.

The question I am

asking myself is: Did Thermopower have proper ventilation equipment to extract

the fumes from the factory?

Section 5 of the

Hazardous Chemical Substances Regulations states that employers must conduct an

assessment of potential exposure, conduct routine air monitoring medical

surveillance, designate places as respirator zones, and implement measures and

procedures for handling hazardous chemical substances with personal protective


If Thermopower does

follow all these regulations, then I am within my rights as a South African

citizen to ask where the records of the assessment of potential hazards are, and

if any are available, what recommendations were put forward, and how were

procedures followed to eliminate the potential hazard?

Cosatu demands that

production at the plant stop until all health and safety laws are implemented in


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