Concern over worker safety grows

As employers fail to comply with Covid-19 regulations. From June 1 most of South Africa’s industries can return to full operation.
Workers over 60, with existing comorbidities and those who can work remotely have been advised to stay at home. Image: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

With the majority of employees are expected to return to work in June concerns are rising on their health and safety, as employers are found to not be complying with government’s Covid-19 regulations. 

Between March and May, when large parts of the economy were not operational, inspectors were issuing out an average of nine prohibition notices a day to non-compliant employers, said Labour and Employment Minister Thulas Nxesi.

Nxesi was speaking at a briefing of the National Coronavirus Command Council’s economic cluster briefing on Friday. 

Prohibition notice

“The state of compliance leaves much to be desired,” said Nxesi. 

“We would expect every employer to jump at the opportunity of saving their company by protecting their key asset – their workers,” he added. 

Since March a total of 332 prohibition notices have been served – an average of about nine prohibition notices per day. Out of the total 3 844 inspections, 55% were compliant.

Among other things employers are expected to ensure that workers are screened daily at work, adhere to physical distancing, that workplaces are disinfected daily and that employees are given sanitisers and face masks. 

Nxesi said prohibition notices were issued where between 50% and 100% of the regulations related to Covid-19 and the known conditions stipulated in the Occupational Health and Safety Act were not adhered to. 

“Prohibition is when there is total neglect and it’s clear to see that workers are in danger because employers have not put any of the (measures) we have recommended [in place],” he said. 

Where there’s a complete disregard for the regulations, companies are ordered to close and if there are some lapses, they are given notice to fix those within a specified period, after which an inspector will return to determine if the workplace is safe. 

On Monday alone, inspectors visited 72 workplaces and less than 40% had been complaint. 

“As a result, the inspectors served six prohibition notices, 37 contraventions, and six improvement notices – just on the one day,” said Nxesi.

“The situation is now further complicated by the fact that at Level 3 of lockdown, many more manual workers will be returning to work – often working for smaller, less-resourced employers.

“It is therefore critical, that all parties are alert and redouble efforts to safeguard the workplace against the spread of the virus.”

Mining

Inspections will continue as the country moves to Level 3. 

Nxesi said that the department will rely on shop stewards from organised labour to monitor whether employers are compliant with government’s health and safety regulations. 

The level three regulations also call for businesses to appoint a Covid-19 health and safety officer, whose job will be to oversee the implementation of the workplace safety regulations as outlined in each individual business’s Covid-19 workplace plan.

Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe said in monitoring compliance in mines, the department found that while most were screening employees they were lagging on testing.

“Our insistence on screening and testing of all persons at mines, has enabled us to detect the virus in various mining areas,” said Mantashe.

As of Thursday, over 4 600 workers in mines have been tested of which 384 tested positive.

AngloGold Ashanti closed up shop at its Mponeng mine on Sunday, after 164 workers tested positive for Covid-19.

Mantashe said Dwarsrivier Chrome Mine was instructed to close after a worker tested positive for Covid-19. During a visit to the mine, the department discovered that the mine was not screening workers or testing them. 

Treason 

“It is not the primary intention to close operations,” said Mantashe.

“The primary objective is to detect the extent of infections in the mine so we know the size of the issue that we are dealing with.”

In alert Level 5 lockdown only coal mines that supply Eskom and refineries were allowed to operate at full capacity. This was extended to open cast mines in alert Level 4; deep level mines where physical distancing is more difficult, are allowed to operate at 50% capacity.

Under level 3 the whole industry will be brought to full capacity.

In addition to screening and ensuring social distancing, the mine regulations require mining employers to actively test workers, give workers flu vaccinations, as well as disinfect their transport and accommodation.

Mantashe said that companies must accept that regional inspectors will make regular unannounced and scheduled visits to mine operations to ensure that there is compliance.

“Any mine that tries to hide Covid-19 cases is actually bordering on treason,” said Mantashe.

“Because when you do that you are a threat to the industry.”

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Typical nanny state approach being adopted by Nxesi and the commie Mantashe as they try and dictate to business how they must operate and behave

I don’t understand. Millions of workers (unfortunately) have to take mini-bus taxis to work and back every day and thousands are killed annually by this reckless lawless killing-machine yet no one ever ‘get concerned’ about this.

True. The taxis industry is the industry that kills the most people by far.

All the responsibility is passed on the the employer. Does the employee not have responsibility for his own well being as well? Is it wrong to expect the employee to buy his own mask and soap? Or something like that?

Stop treating and speaking of employers as criminals. We are desperately trying to understand what we are supposed to do and generally attempting to comply.

However the rules/laws/suggestions etc keep changing and becoming more and more onerous and complicated. We are given 3 days to attempt to comply before Monday.

How many other employers are considering abandoning their businesses because of this and all the other red tape that exists?

The capitalistic system just wants to abuse people forever.

“The misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited all.”
Joan Robinson

Classic SA leadership…

To all those who praised the ruling party for their “visionary” leadership when this thing started, and also stated that SA’s leader was better than the leaders of the West take not:

You closed the economy when new cases daily totaled 300. You are reopening it when the said number is between 1500 and 2000. This will be a mess just wait and see..

Copying the West without thinking is not visionary leadership. It shows lack of original thought oh but that’s not PC…. my bad!

End of comments.

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