State probes poisoning

The Department of Labour will launch an inquiry into possible manganese poisoning at a KwaZulu-Natal ferromanganese smelter.

The Department of Labour will launch an inquiry into possible manganese poisoning at a KwaZulu-Natal ferromanganese smelter.

A formal enquiry into the exposure of workers to poisonous fumes at the Assmang plant in Cato Ridge, Durban, is set to start today and will continue until tomorrow, said department spokesman Zolisa Sigabi.

The inquiry forms part of an investigation that started in November last year when six workers were reported to be suffering from poisoning.

Sigabi said inhaled manganese fumes or dust primarily affected the central nervous system.

High concentrations would cause flu-like illnesses referred to as manganese pneumonitis.

"About 20 witnesses from the industry have been summoned to appear before the hearing," he said.

The inquiry was to establish the level of manganese fumes or dust exposure to the workers and whether Assmang had fulfilled its legal obligation to prevent exposure.

It will also try to determine whether controls were in place by the company, who should be held responsible for the exposure, and whether preventative measures had been taken.

The inspectors would compile a report with recommendations for consideration by the director of public prosecutions after the inquiry had been completed. - Sapa

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