PRETORIA– The South African Department of Labour says it will direct more energy into efforts to improve enforcement of the occupational safety and health regulations.

The department is pinning its hope on the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Bill of 2018, which seeks to amend the current legislation, namely the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 85 of 1993. The bill, which was approved by the Cabinet in May, aims to provide greater protection for workers regarding injuries and diseases at the workplace.

However, the Bill has not yet been released for public comment, bt this is imminent, says Department of Labour Director-General Thobile Lamati. Once adopted, this bill will ensure greater protection of workers in respect of injuries and diseases at the workplace, he told the media here Thursday

Among other measures, Lamati said, the Bill would establish a clearly defined Health and Safety Management System in line with international best practice. It also provides for mandatory risk assessment to be conducted by the employer and a workplace-specific risk management plan developed and implemented to minimise the exposure of employees to risk.

He said one of the major changes in the Bill relates to the change in the administration of fines in cases of non-compliance. The amended OHS Bill also proposes among others that workers can run away from unsafe workplaces without being victimised, companies regularly share statistics of fatalities, and that fines are made more punitive, he said, adding that inspectors would also be empowered to issue spot fines.

The next step is for the Bill to be introduced in Parliament where it will be referred to the Portfolio Committee for consideration.

The briefing by Lamati followed the death of eight people at the Somerset West plant of Denel, the State-owned aerospace and military technology group following an explosion at the plant near Cape Town. and the death of the three firefighters who lost their lives while responding to the fire that erupted at The Bank of Lisbon building in Johannesburg last Wednesday.