The Department of Employment and Labour has warned that it will shut down any employer not adhering to measures put in place during South Africa’s 21-day cornavirus lockdown.
The department is currently conducting a number of blitz inspections across the country and has already shuttered a number of retailers – including two Shoprite stores in Gauteng – for non-compliance.
On Thursday (2 April), the department announced that a company was closed in Mpumalanga after the employer failed to conduct risk assessments and implement precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Among other findings, employees were not trained on the precautionary measures to be taken in order to protect themselves against any harm to their well-being, particularly on the risks caused by exposure to hazardous biological agents like Covid-19.
Employees were provided with neither sanitisers nor water and soap for basic personal hygiene and were not furnished with personal protective equipment as per the occupational health and safety standards.
“The bottom line is that if you are not healthy, hygienic and observing laws to protect workers – we close,” the department said. “The public must take this Corona issue very serious for the sake of their own health and that of their families.”
On Monday (30 March) Labour minister Thulas Nxesi said that his department has received a number of complaints relating to health safety issues, while some companies are also staying open fraudulently using fake certificates declaring them as essential services.
To combat these abuses, the department said it conducts ‘blitz inspections’ to clamp down on businesses that are not following South Africa’s 21-day coronavirus lockdown or are breaching health and safety rules.
“The Department has received numerous complaints from workers that some employers are forcing them to work without the necessary personal protective equipment, thus providing a breeding ground for any outbreak of the coronavirus,” said labour minister Thulas Nxesi.
“Our Labour Inspectors are following up – largely, at the moment, in Gauteng, Western Cape and KZN. The inspectors are also finding violations of existing health and safety regulations. Indeed, a retail outlet and a manufacturing plant were closed down on day one of the lockdown.”
Nxesi said that the inspectors are being accompanied by SAPS, as well as Department of Trade and Industry officials. The reason for the latter is that some employers have fraudulent certificates declaring that they can continue to operate as essential services, he said.
“The inspectorate will issue a daily report on their findings. At this stage, we are urging these employers to do the right thing. By next week, we will start to name and shame individual companies and branches.