More workers killed at chemical plants in the country

01 August 2001 - groundWork extends its condolences to the families of the victims of yet another industrial accident. A man was burnt to deathand another two injured at the Sappi Saiccor plant in Umbogintwini, South of Durban, yesterday morning.

This follows the death of 3 workers in an explosion at the Mondi mill last week,the deaths of workers at the Engen and NATREF refineries in June this year, and a fire at the Caltex refinery last month. This also comes in the wake of recent press exposure of the poisoning of hundreds of workers at the Vantech vanadium mine in Mpumalanga province.

Clearlyworkers at chemical plants in South Africa are exposeddaily to high risks without their employersinvesting the necessary finances into safety, health and operational procedures. Clearly, too, these chemical companies have complete impunity to pollute and cut corners on occupational safety, at the cost of the lives and health of workers and communities.

At the very most these industries are required by government to undertake an investigation into the cause of the incident. These investigations, if completed, disappear into the bureaucratic labyrinth, never to resurface. One has to wonder whether the prosecution of the CEO of one of these chemical industries on charges of culpable homicide, or a massive class action against one of these companies would cause these companies to invest more in worker health andsafety and environmental standards. History has taught us one thing, though - that we cannot rely on our government to take up this matter. The apparently cosy relationship between our government and big industries ensures this.