Government says that employers not complying with safety regulations will be shut down.
The Department of Employment and Labour says basic hygiene measures and PPEs are increasingly evident in most workplaces but, where this was not the case, an average of nine Prohibition Orders are being issued per day – leading to a total or partial shutdown. There are currently 170 inspectors in the field (out of a total of 200) and, according to the 2019 budget, provision has been made to employ an additional 500 Inspectors. This process is now being expedited to meet the demands of the Covid-19 pandemic and the department is also looking at using accredited, registered inspection bodies to increase its reach.
“The labour inspectors have carried out some 2,226 inspections during the lockdown. This includes public sector premises and 86 health facilities. The rate of compliance by employers has increased from 50 percent to over 60 percent over the period of the lockdown,” said Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi who, on Sunday, outlined the measures that employers must take to ensure the safety of employees returning to work on Monday under level 4 of lockdown.
He said employers must provide each employee, free of charge, with at least two cloth masks to wear while at work or commuting.
“There must be suitable arrangements for washing and drying masks. Ultimately, the employer remains responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of PPEs. Where a risk assessment indicates, workers must be provided with alternative appropriate PPE to provide a greater level of protection,” he said.
Employers must also provide sufficient quantities of hand sanitiser with at least 70 percent alcohol content, ensure that work surfaces, equipment and common areas such as toilets, door handles and shared equipment are regularly cleaned and disinfected, and provide adequate facilities for handwashing with soap and clean water and sufficient paper towels
Regarding the safety measures would be monitored and enforced, the minister said labour Inspectors had been empowered to promote, monitor and enforce compliance, with those not complying forced to close their businesses.
“In addition, as the failure to comply fully with the OHSA (Occupational Health and Safety Act) is a criminal offence, failure to take the necessary measures to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 may result in criminal prosecution,” said the Minister.
“It would be impossible to inspect every one of the 1.8 million businesses. Therefore, Inspectors rely upon the support of individual workers, unions and socially responsible employers in providing vital information – which in turn allows the Inspectors to focus on hotspots and to make an example of particular offenders. In turn, this leads to greater self-regulation and compliance.”