groundWork calls for a Commission of Enquiry into worker and community safety in the SA oil refinery industry

08 June 2001 - In the past ten days, two workers have died during separate accidents at the ENGEN (South Durban) and NATREF (Sasolburg) refineries.

Yesterday a worker lost his life when he was burnt to death and another injured in an explosion at the NATREF plant. On Monday 28 May a worker was instantly killed and another critically injured when he was exposed to hydroflouric acid in an accident at the ENGEN plant in South Durban. All of these workers were contract workers and thus are not employed directly by the refinery companies.

groundWork, an environmental justice organisation working with communities in South Durban and Sasolburg on pollution issues, is seriously disturbed by both these accidents and resultant deaths at these SA oil refineries.

“Workers face the highest risk in working in these plants. Not only are they exposed to high levels of occupational pollution, they are also the first line of injury when there are accidents in these plants,” says Bobby Peek, Director of groundWork.

“groundWork is particularly concerned that the workers killed and injured in these two recent incidents were not in the direct or permanent employ of the refinery companies. Therefore, the companies can distance themselves from the accident and the liability,” Peek said.

The Sasol group for the 1999-2000 year had 9 fatalities and 1163 injuries in over 230 incidents (Sasol SHE Report, 2000).

groundWork calls on the SA government to convene a Commission of Enquiry into the:

A local Sasolburg resident, Mvuse Maguma called on the Sasolburg community and other communities adjacent to the refineries to support groundWork’s call for a commission of enquiry. “We live next to these refineries, what happens there affects us,” says Maguma.

groundWork is concerned by worker safety and is in communication with Unions on this issue.

One injury is too much, and one death should be treated with the full weight of the law!