Ignorance is a major factor contributing to the high incidence of accidents in factories and other workplaces.
Talking Social Security with NSSA
This ignorance applies to both employers and employees.
Factory managers are often ignorant of the provisions of the Factories and Works Act Chapter 14:08:1996, which is the major Act governing factory operations.
This is mainly because they do not possess a copy of the Act. Yet it is a legal requirement that there should be a copy of the Act in all factories that is available to those who work there. Copies of the Act are available from Printflow. They do not cost much.
Because they do not have a copy of the Act, those operating a factory often fail to adhere to safety requirements contained within the Act, simply through ignorance of their legal obligations. As a result, many accidents occur that could be avoided by adhering to the law.
Some factory occupiers do not even register their premises, as they are required to do by law. Many do not realise that in legal terms they are operating a factory.
The definition of factory premises in the Act is, as has been pointed out in previous column articles, broad.
It includes any premises employing five or more people where goods are manufactured or where painting, printing, photographic work, assembling, packing, repairs, electricity generation or slaughtering of livestock takes place.
Those occupying premises that are considered factories in terms of the Act are required to register the premises and to adhere to the requirements of the Act and subsidiary regulations. On registration, they are issued with a registration certificate.
Among the requirements of the Act is a stipulation that NSSA’s Inspectorate should be consulted when machinery is installed or repaired.
Repair procedures have to be submitted to the inspectorate for approval before they are carried out. Repairing or tampering with machines or installations can be dangerous if the correct procedures are not followed.
Many factory owners or occupiers are quick to issue personal protective equipment without trying to address the safety risks at their source by ensuring the engineering approach is correct.
Proper engineering design is crucial for accident prevention.
While the provision of safety equipment for workers is important, this may not be sufficient on its own, particularly if boilers and machinery have been poorly designed and installed.
Many employers unfortunately view legislation as a hindrance to production, though in reality the opposite is true.
Those running factories who not only comply with legislation, but go beyond it in terms of occupational safety and health can testify to the fact that good safety procedures and their observance actually improve production.
Regulations governing factory operations clearly set out the equipment that requires statutory inspections and the intervals at which such inspections are to be carried out. Factory occupiers should consult NSSA’s safety and health division if they unsure about what the law expects of them.
An estimated 98% of electrical circuit breakers in factories do not have protection for human beings in case of accidental contact with parts with live electricity.
It is the duty of every engineer with a responsibility for machinery where there is danger of accidental contact with electricity to purchase these units and install them.
Another area where many factory occupiers fall down is the reporting of accidents. While many are quick to report accidents to NSSA for compensation purposes, few fulfil their legal obligation to report accidents on the prescribed form for purposes of accident prevention.
While the Worker’s Compensation Insurance Fund, which NSSA administers, provides financial compensation for employees who would otherwise suffer financial loss as a result of a workplace accident or disease, prevention of accidents is preferable to compensation.
Financial compensation is no substitute for good health and the full use of all one’s limbs or for the loss of a family member through a workplace accident.
For that reason NSSA has a division that promotes safety and health through factory and equipment inspections and through offering advice on machinery and boiler design and installation and on a range of other safety and health issues, including the setting up of safety and health systems appropriate for the circumstances of different sized companies.
It also conducts safety and health workshops for staff and managers and endeavours to educate both employers and employees on the importance of safety and health precautions.
For effective safety and health at work the employer needs first of all to obtain a copy of the Factories and Works Act and its subsidiary legislation, as well as any other legislation that might be relevant to his particular sector or operations.
The employer must comply with those regulations, make them available to staff and ensure that staff comply with whatever safety procedures are put in place.
Talking Social Security is published weekly by the National Social Security Authority as a public service.
There is also a weekly radio programme, PaMhepo neNssa/Emoyeni le NSSA, discussing social security issues at 6.50 pm every Thursday on Radio Zimbabwe and every Friday on National FM. There is another social security programme on Star FM on Wednesdays after 5pm.
Readers can e mail issues they would like dealt with in this column to email@example.com or text them to 0772 307913. Those with individual queries should contact their local NSSA office or telephone NSSA on (04) 706517-8 or 706523 5.