Keynote Address by the Deputy Minister Boitumelo Moloi at the Occupational Health and Safety conference 07 – 09 November 20
7 November 2023



• Acting Director General (if present)

• Inspector-General

• Chief Inspector

• Senior officials and inspectors

• Representatives of the International Labour Organization

• Representatives of the African Union Development Agency

• Representatives of Labour (including the General Secretary of COSATU)

• Representatives of Business

• Guests from the informal economy sector

 • Experts, academics and practitioners in OHS

 • Ladies and gentlemen


Programme Director, just a couple of weeks ago; South Africans was thrust into euphoria in celebration of the unprecedented win of our Springbok Rugby team. They brought the fourth win of the World Cup to the shores of our country. It was a stark reminder that South Africans are resilient, especially when united around a common good. I believe that the theme of this conference resonate with the spirit of unity. The theme is: “Collaboration and Strategic Approach to enhance decent work in an evolving World of Work". This theme is apt since it puts emphasis on partnerships and inclusivity. It attempts to bring stakeholders together such that no one is left behind. More so in the space of Occupational Health and Safety. Particularly since the International Labour Organisation rightfully added safety and health as the 5th principle to the fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.


Programme Director, section 24 of the South African Constitution states that: “Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or wellbeing". It further asserts that the state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources to ensure that this Right is achieved. It is important to note that although the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993, predates South Africa's democratic dispensation and the Constitution of the Republic, it does respond to the above stated right. As South Africa is committed to the decent work agenda and equally obligated to see to it that citizens have a decent future in the world of work, all stakeholders have to join forces towards the achievement of the objective of health and safety as prescribed in our constitution.



Even with the progressive development of OHS legislation, South Africa is still grappling with occupational accidents, injuries, ill-health and occupational diseases. Although it is applaudable that all occupational accidents and injuries are mostly responded to promptly, we need to be mindful of more insidious killers in the form of occupational diseases as there is a long latency period. Often, the impact of such on the health of individuals and the economy, is often picked up when it is too late and the damage had been done.


As stated in some quote; “Safety is a small investment for a rich future." Investing in a sound health and safety system bodes well for all concerned. The ILO estimates are that 2.78 million people die annually due to work related accidents or diseases. About 313 Million people are involved in non-fatal occupational accidents causing serious injuries and absences from work. On a daily, these statistics translate to approximately 6,400 people losing their lives from occupational accidents or diseases and 860,000 people getting injured on the job. These occupational diseases and accidents usually result in significant costs to the employers, employees and economies. It is estimated that the annual direct and indirect costs resulting from occupational diseases and accidents, is approximately 4% of the global gross domestic product. As poor occupational health and safety practices affect the economy, our country needs to ensure that decent work principles, as prescribed by the International Labour Organization, are adhered to. This requires all of us to work together. As South Africans we have a rich history of coming together to overcome any kind of adversity and soar high like eagles. We can honestly do better in the space of Health ands Safe



The attainment of workplaces that are free of occupational health and safety hazards; is one of the critical elements of Decent Work. If the Decent work agenda is not achieved, we would be most unlikely to attain the NDP Agenda: 2030; viz: “Decent Employment through Inclusive Economic Growth."



Programme Director, it is just as critical to move towards achieving the African Union Goal number 1 (A high standard of living, quality of life and well-being for all citizens) and Sustainable Development Goal number 8. There needs to be a systematic approach and a commitment to continual improvement.


The essence and purpose of our engagement is to share information, knowledge and expertise, in order to equip the inspectorate and to make them abler, agile and adaptable to the environment in which they work. This engagement should empower our stakeholders and strengthen the prevention aspect. Another quote states that “A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song". Programme Director, if we each come to the party, we are likely to sing beautiful tunes that will improve the posture of Health and Safety in our country.



Ensuring growth and a sustainable work environment is probably one of the most challenging phenomenon for any country. Arguably, the most difficult aspect of health and safety are systems. Systems require people to be infallible, and yet people themselves are flawed. By their very nature, systems too, can be deficient. This very aspect often leads to loss of life. We are all on a quest to ensure that health and safety programmes work. We spend millions on health and safety systems and still we commemorate the lives of millions of people, worldwide, who succumb to systems that have blemishes.



Should we throw our hands in the air in utter despair? ……. Of course not, programme director. On the contrary; we should take the proverbial bull by the horn and soldier on. We dare not lose hope. On the affirmative, millions of lives are saved through the unerring and unwavering commitment of some, who toil day and night to ensure that we make it through one more day. These are the men and women who should be celebrated.


One cannot overemphasise the need to ensure injury and disease do not go with the job and all workers have a right to return home from work safe and healthy.


We know that proactive interventions require investment, but what is a country without citizens that are not afforded an opportunity to thrive through OHS preventive systems? Let us ensure that we all take responsibility for our lives at work and ensure that OHS as a fundamental right at all workplaces becomes a reality.


Like the late, Emeritus Desmond Tutu said, “IF YOU ARE NEUTRAL IN A SITUATION OF INJUSTICE, IT IS BECAUSE YOU HAVE CHOSEN THE CAMP OF THE OPPRESSOR." Therefore all stakeholders, must play their role and not be neutral in ensuring that health and safety of all workers is ensured. Let us continuously ensure that there is justice in the world of work and let us break the shackles of poor occupational health and safety practices as the vulnerable are looking upon us. Through unity, we must build a strong and better nation and endeavour to ensure that workers and their families do not continuously sing “not yet uhuru."


As Maya Angelou said, “IF YOU'RE GOING TO LIVE, LEAVE A LEGACY. MAKE A MARK ON THE WORLD THAT CAN'T BE ERASED." Through this conference, let us make a mark during our journey to improving OHS practices and leave a legacy that we will be proud of, for generations to come.


Program director; the South African government remains invested in everyone's wellbeing in terms of health and safety. In a gathering like this, it is imperative that we put the spotlight on our ability to provide policy direction and guidance with regards to the regulation of Occupational health and safety. I am also happy to say that we have made significant strides towards the reviewable of the OHS Act. I am optimistic that we will conclude the process sooner rather than later. We have ratified Recommendation 204 of 2015 which focuses on the Transition from the Informal to the Formal Economy. I need to point out that whilst it is government's responsibility to provide a steady legal framework, we depend on all of us to play our role. This requires all stakeholders to work together in the development of a basket of OHS solutions that will support the informal economy. According to the Q2 (2023) QLF survey, the informal economy is about 18,5% of the total economy in South Africa. The informal economy is comprised of man and women who work long and tireless hours to make a living. We can't fail them.


The Department visited the Warwick junction prior to this conference. The purpose was to observe how OHS principles are being applied through indigenous knowledge and training. To say the whole episode was an eye opener' would be an understatement. The fact is, we can't replace collaborative efforts with anything if we are invested in making an improvement on OHS matters in the informal sector. Our need to collaborate is more urgent than ever. Undoubtedly, this Conference will add value to our work and improve collaboration at all levels. I trust that we will learn enough to save even just one more life in the world of work. One death or injury in any workplace, is one too many.


I wish you well for the rest of the conference.​