[OUDTSHOORN, WESTERN CAPE] The Department of Employment and Labour in the Western Cape today closed the Oudtshoorn Magistrate Court. The closure follows a visit by labour inspectors to the site after receiving a tip-off relating to non-compliance.
The Oudtshoorn Magistrates Court, located in the Garden Route area of the Western Cape was closed after the Inspectorate found the government facility unsafe and in contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety Act no. 85 of 1993.
The Inspectorate issued the court with a prohibition notice after a range of non-adherence to OHS and COVID-19 Regulations were observed. The prohibition notice essentially means that no operations will take place at the court and that no officials as well as visitors to the court will be allowed at the premises. This notice will stand until lifted by the inspector.
Some of the contraventions included that the court did not have a proper COVID-19 risk assessment in place, non compliance to COVID-Regulations in terms of the use of biometric systems, poor screening processes, no social distancing and also no procedures in place for the management of isolation and quarantine of staff, among others.
According to David Esau, Provincial Chief Inspector, the employer also further put staff and visitors of the court at risk by the lack of basic occupational health and safety protocols, “During our inspection, we also found that the fire extinguishers were expired and there was also poor electrical wiring at the site. The Inspectorate had no other choice but to close the court in the interest of the safety of staff and the public at large”, he said.
During a briefing session with the Area Court Manager, Department of Public Works and the Chief Magistrate, Esau explained that the employer would need to provide sufficient evidence that processes have been put in place to address all the concerns raised. “As part of reversing the prohibition notice, the employer must attend to all areas of non-compliance listed in the notice. The court will also need to establish a Health and Safety Committee”, he said.
A follow-up visit will be conducted by the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) inspector once the employer has confirmed that all minimum standards have been put in place to ensure the safety of both employees and the public. If the inspector is satisfied with the efforts of the employer, the prohibition notice will be lifted. It is expected that labour inspectors will now also inspect the courts in the Beaufort West, Calitzdorp, Ladismith and Prince Albert areas in an attempt to ensure compliance with the OHS Act
OHS inspectors will continue to visit workplaces to monitor compliance, act on tip-offs and implement the necessary actions where required.