Safety control and workplace security of FET Technology high school teachers : an Education Law perspective
Oosthuizen, Josef Jacobus
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Workplaces of FET Technology high school teachers are internationally well documented as being hazardous, as is evident in court cases related to injuries and other forms of harm. Occupational diseases also emanate from these hazardous conditions in the workplace and pose an elevated risk to the health and wellbeing of FET Technology teachers. To ensure that workplaces are safe for these teachers, legislation, the common law and regulations require that safety control measures are implemented. The primary research objective of the study was to explore the nature of workplace security of FET Technology teachers by determining the influence of safety control measures on their workplace security, whether the physical infrastructure of their schools contributed to workplace insecurity, and how they interpreted applicable legal indicators and regulations. To address the research objective of this empirical study, a qualitative methodology was employed, along with the research paradigm being constructivist by nature. The qualitative research within the constructivist paradigm entailed the undertaking of a phenomenological study. Through the rigorous process of analysis and interpretation, four important themes associated with workplace security and one relating to legal determinants were ultimately identified. To ensure richness of descriptive data, FET Technology teachers from all four districts in the North West province were purposively selected to participate in semi-structured face to face interviews. The analysis and interpretation of the interview data offered an analytical account of the data collected on the experiences of FET Technology high school teachers regarding workplace security in their workshops. The research findings indicated that several factors contributed to workplace insecurity amongst FET Technology teachers, with several key role players not fulfilling their professional responsibilities. The single biggest factor in this study was undoubtedly the absence of relevant works inspectors and record-keeping as per regulations. The ripple effects of absent works inspectors, departmental officials not adhering to the GU&M Guidelines, non-compliant service providers and some SGBs not fulfilling their legal duties were felt in every sphere of workplace security. Furthermore, it was found that the implementation of health and safety regulations by tasked DBE officials to ensure safe workplaces was also lacking. Not only were inspections on existing and newly installed machinery neglected, but school infrastructure that suffered earthquake damage and buildings constructed of asbestos contribute to the increased risk these teachers had to face. Some challenges regarding the supply of funding from SGBs for maintenance on machinery and safeguarding of workplaces were identified as well as a lack of professional support from the DBE regarding in-service training. The connection between teachers being uninformed about common-law principles relating to liability and the psychological security of teachers being negatively affected as a result also came to the fore. Two psychological factors were identified by the participants namely stress in the workplace and discipline and supervision. These are the result of supervising large classes during practical sessions, and resulting disciplinary problems. This had a detrimental effect on the educational practices and morale of the participating teachers and the quality of education. Based on the research findings, nine recommendations were made to the DBE, SGBs, SMTs and teachers on aspects relating to the workplace security of FET Technology teachers. Amongst these are upholding the duty and accountability of the state in ensuring safe working environments, establishing a dedicated inspectorate for FET Technology workshops, addressing the psychological security of teachers by providing or enhancing support structures to reduce occupational stress. Another recommendation was mobilising teacher unions in ensuring the protection of FET Technology teachers’ rights regarding labour regulations, with specific focus on COIDA. The aim of the above-mentioned recommendations is to contribute to improved implementation of legal determinants that influence workplace security and ultimately improve working conditions by regulating unsafe work environments leading to occupational injuries and diseases in FET Technology high schools.
- Education