South Africa: Unions urge gov’t to join global call against asbestos use

BWI’s South African affiliates called on their government to join the global community in calling for the total ban on the use of asbestos at workplaces, particularly in the construction sector, as asserted by the Rotterdam Convention. 

In a two-day seminar held on 22-23 September, various trade unions in the region said that while many countries, including South Africa, have instituted measures to limit and/or ban the use and exportation of asbestos, asbestos-related diseases suffered by many workers are still not addressed. 

The trade unionists also emphasised on the need to bring the campaign against asbestos to the communities. They said that many people still use asbestos domestically for their piping and roofing materials. They called on the government to provide the people with safe and alternative roofing materials. 

South Africa’s latest policy developments on asbestos were also deliberated. One of these is the repeal of the Asbestos Regulations of 2001 (published as Government Notice R.155 in Gazette No. 23108, 10 February 2002) and replacement of stronger regulations in 2020. 

Aside from the trade unionists, occupational health and safety (OHS) expert Warren Manning and representatives from the South African Department of Employment and Labour led by Elize Lourens attended the seminar.  This opened opportunities for stronger cooperation amongst the trade unions, government and private sector.