Occupational health and safety is often under the spotlight in South Africa. With a number of high-risk industries, such as mining, work-related fatalities and illnesses are prevalent, but what exactly can South Africans do to protect themselves and their families against these risks?
Recently, a R464-million settlement has been reached between a prominent South African gold mining company and 4,365 claimants who suffered from silicosis. The settlement, though a positive development for all the individuals involved, also illustrates that legal processes can be complicated and drawn out. While the courts play their role in compensating families of those who die in the line of duty, including from long-term illnesses, the wheels of justice turn slowly and dependents can be left destitute while the process drags on.
Therefore, responsible individuals should ensure they have adequate life cover – and not risk a single day of being unprepared.
Case study: Silicosis
Silicosis is caused by inhaling excessive amounts of silica dust found underground. This damages the lungs and can lead to tuberculosis. Silicosis is a progressive disease – meaning that it gets worse over time. It can also lead to death. Over the past 5 decades, millions of people have worked in underground mines in South Africa. The exact number of people who were exposed – and may have claims – is difficult to estimate.
Long, drawn out processes
A separate and larger claim than the example above is currently underway, pursued by Richard Spoor Inc, Abrahams Kiewitz and the Legal Resources Centre after the Johannesburg High Court ruled that they could pursue actions for two separate classes of claimants: one for silicosis and one for tuberculosis. Cases such as these are always time consuming and resource intensive.
Before cases are even brought to court, there may be 18 months or more of discussions, during which the parties aim to find each other, make progress and negotiate. Tracing all the victims can be very costly.
Despite the lack of infrastructure and limited specialised expertise for diagnosis in rural areas, the legal firms have traced 30,000 potential claimants so far.
Despite the best efforts of the legal firms, the reality on the ground is that the settlement may not happen fast enough. With about 4% of affected individuals dying per year, according to legal firm Spoor, about a quarter of claimants have passed away during the past six years – before a settlement was reached.
Without adequate life cover, the families of these claimants would be left destitute. Even people working in much safer environments can’t afford to have inadequate life cover – let alone miners, construction workers or others in high risk working conditions.
The only way to ensure that your family is protected is to get adequate life insurance – and to do so immediately. An Old Mutual iWYZE Life Insurance quote takes less than 60 seconds.
Old Mutual Life Assurance Company is an authorised FSP (FSP 703). Risk profile dependent. Terms and conditions apply.