NEWS Bill seeks to expedite authoritative investigation after workplace accident

Bill seeks to expedite authoritative investigation after workplace accident

A proposed bill seeks to expedite judicial investigations by involving OHSA in court investigations of workplace accidents.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration oversees workplace safety. According to the agency’s website, it seeks to “ensure the physical, psychological and social well-being of all workers in all workplaces”.

As it stands, authorities can investigate any matter related to occupational safety, including death or injury. However, the agency does not participate in administrative investigations.

If approved by parliament, the new law means OHSA will be directly involved in court inquiries.

“The bill will make inquiries faster,” a Department of Planning spokesman said. “Many authoritative investigations are still ongoing,” he added.

If the bill becomes law, the trial judge would be obliged to appoint one or more OHSA officers to be present during the investigation. They will be allowed “to question witnesses and experts at all meetings held during the trial and to submit a report which shall form part of the conduct of the trial,” the draft bill says.

The bill passed its first reading on Monday and was published in the government gazette on Friday.

Most of OHSA’s jobs are in construction, the deadliest industry in the country. Security services have reported 19 deaths between 2019 and 2021, including 17 on construction sites.

Figures presented to parliament at the end of November showed almost two-thirds of authoritative inquiries into deaths and major injuries at construction sites over the past five years are still pending.

Magistrates have been asked to investigate 59 fatal accidents involving construction sites since 2017. Of these, 25 have been completed, but 34 are still pending.

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