Industrial Health Resource Group & others v the Minister of Labour and others

Case #: 4 All SA 78 (GP)

Year: 2015

Documents

Supporting Documents

  1. Amended Notice of Motion - Download
  2. Founding Affidavit - Download
  3. Applicants’ Heads of Argument - Download
  4. Respondents’ Heads of Argument - Download
  5. Judgement - Download
  6. Paarl Print Inspector Report - Download

Case Summary

This matter deals with whether the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) allows for the workers and dependants of the deceased to be furnished with a copy of the report of an inquiry envisaged in section 32(9).

Workers, dependants of the deceased and Industrial Health Resource Group (the Applicants) launched an opposed application against Minister of Labour, Chief Inspector and Paarl Print (Pty) Ltd (the Respondents) who classified an investigation and inquiry report in terms of section 32 of the OHSA regarding a workplace fire accident in which several Paarl Print workers lost their lives.

At issue was whether the Applicants and similarly situated parties are entitled to be furnished with a copy of the report of an inquiry envisaged in section 32(9) of the OHSA as of right. The Applicants sought relief from the court to declare that they are entitled to be furnished with a copy of a report envisaged in section 32 of OHSA in order to exercise their rights under the Constitution, OHSA, Compensation of Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA), other legislation and common law, and alternatively, in terms of Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA).

The Respondent argued that the provisions of the OHSA do not provide for an interested party to be furnished with the Presiding Inspector’s report into a section 32 inquiry. The Respondent further argued that section 35 of COIDA does not allow an employee injured on duty and/or dependants of employee who died as a result of injuries on duty to sue an employer, thus the Applicants are not entitled to access the report of the Presiding Inspector into section 32 inquiry for the purpose of exercising their rights.

After applying section 39 of the Constitution to interpret section 32 of the OHSA, the Court held that the purpose of section 32 inquiry is to determine whether duties imposed on an employer and third parties in terms of sections 8 and 10 of the OHSA have been breached. As a result, keeping the OHSA report a secret defeated the purpose of the Act, undermined the constitutional value of transparency, and violated several constitutional rights of the workers and dependants of deceased who died in the accident. The Court further held that section 42 of PAIA makes access to the inspector’s report mandatory. However, it is not necessary to lodge a PAIA request when the information is crucial for the exercise of workers’ rights; the OHSA provides for the right to this information.

Counsel for Applicants:

Steven Budlender

Nicholas Ferreira

Jason Mitchell (Pupil)