WALVIS BAY - Workers at Best Cheer Stone Products, a marble stone processing factory situated outside Walvis Bay, are concerned over the hazardous and high-risk working environment at the factory that is allegedly putting their lives at risk on a daily basis.
The Chinese owned factory produces world class marble products and currently has factories in Walvis Bay and Karibib. The marble processor employs about 195 Namibians and 15 Chinese nationals.
Employees who work with heavy machinery say several of their colleagues have already been injured in the past and such injuries would continue as the company failed to implement recommendations made in 2015 after a work stoppage at the factory that directly address safety issues at the factory.
Workers say they inhale dust particles from the marbles, which exposes them to Tuberculosis and Silicosis, a lung disease caused by a dust particle called crystalline silica.
Crystalline silica is a common mineral found in the earth crust and can cause silicosis, which in severe cases can be disabling, or even fatal. The respirable silica dust enters the lungs and causes the formation of scar tissue, thus reducing the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen.
As a result of the danger they face at work, the 195 factory workers handed over a petition to management in which they demanded better working conditions, housing allowance, safety allowance as well as medical aid.
Speaking on behalf of the workers, Immanuel Festus said their current low salaries do not allow them to join medical aid funds despite them working in a highly risky environment.
New Era has in the past reported about two incidences whereby a worker lost a finger and another injured his knee during work.
“We want the company to engage affordable service providers for a tailor-made medical aid due to the fact that we are exposed to crystalline silica,” said Festus.
He also said they want the company to conduct proper research on the dangers of the minerals and how the risk can be mitigated.
Workers also demanded that the company either provide them with housing allowance or accommodation, saying such privileges are currently only reserved their Chinese colleagues.
“We also want nightshift allowance, job titles, better pension and production bonuses. All employees should be treated equal and the Labour Act must applied,” he said.
Human resource manager of the company Lovina Plato said that management would study the grievances of the employees to see how best the company can address the workers’ concerns.