World Day for Safety and Health Work in Eswatini

Prevention of Occupational Hazards and diseases at work

News | 03 May 2021

 The Ministry of Labour and Social Security in Eswatini commemorated the World Day for Safety and Health at Esibayeni Lodge, Matsapha. The event was attended by civil servants, The Ministry of Labour and Social Security Portfolio Committees in Senate and the House of Assembly, Principal Secretary , International Labour Organisation (ILO) OSH Specialist Pretoria Office, Employers and Workers’ federations ‘representatives, Representatives of the Mineworkers Associations, members of the Tripartite Advisory Technical Committee for Occupational Safety and Health and government officials. The event was officiated by the Honourable Acting Minister of Labour and Social Security Pholile Shakantu.

In her remarks, the Honourable Minister noted that fatal accidents at work places and non-fatal ones are increasing each reporting period. She said the Government of Eswatini main purpose of this celebration was to promote the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases in the world of work. “This is an awareness –raising campaign intended to focus international attention on the magnitude of the problem and on how promoting and creating a safety and health culture at work could help reduce the number of work –related deaths, diseases and injuries”, she said.

The Minister noted that the ILO estimated that 160 million cases of non-fatal work related diseases occurred annually. These estimates implied that everyday approximately 6400 people died from occupational accidents of diseases and that 860 000 people were injured on the job. Addressing issues of occupational safety and health promptly and decisively does not only save lives but also has a significant bearing on economic performance in that it decreases insurance premiums on pay-outs while also improving workers performances, morale and productivity as well as reducing absenteeism.

In her remarks the ILO’s Occupational Safety and Health Specialist, Ms Penny Munkawa shared some findings; ”This year’s Theme “Anticipate, prepare and respond to crises: Invest now in resilient OSH systems” captures the global experiences and interpretation of the full year of successful and failed strategies to mitigate the impacts of COVID19. The ILO findings reveal that up to 20-30 per cent of new COVID-19 infections in some surveyed countries may be attributed to workplace exposure.
The Theme invites countries to examine the most critical elements on national OSH systems, as articulated by Article 4 Convention 187, one of over 40 ILO’s instruments on OSH. These include 1) national OSH regulatory frameworks, 2) national OSH institutional frameworks including competent authorities, 3) occupational health services, 4) information, advisory services and training on OSH, 5) data collection and research on OSH, and 6) strengthening OSH management systems at the enterprise level to prevent and respond to OSH risks.”

For the first time ever in these celebrations, the Ministry was joined by the Eswatini Mineworkers Associations. These are current and ex-mine workers of South African Mining Companies. Two specialised occupational health clinics were set up in the country to provide health support services to these workers on return back home. A task team has been set up to make the OSH clinics in Manzini at the Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital and Hlathikhulu Hospital self-sustaining. Worker and Employer federations were encouraged to make use of these services. Government will in collaboration with partners continue to explore possibilities of extending occupational health specialised services to other strategic parts of the country.

The celebrations of World Day for Safety and Health during the COVID-19 pandemic has led governments ,employers and workers to face unprecedented challenges in relation to health hazards in the workplace caused by the virus. The global crisis has had profound impact and has touched every aspect of the world of work from the transmission of the virus to adverse OSH effects and risks. The Kingdom of Eswatini was not spared. Shifts to new forms of working arrangements have presented many opportunities for workers. We are reminded to anticipate, prepare, and respond to crises by investing in resilient OSH systems as per the OSH DAY 2021 theme.