[MOSSEL BAY, WESTERN CAPE] The Department of Employment and Labour in the Western Cape today acted on a tip-off that an employer in Mossel Bay had intentionally defied his prohibition notice.
Led by the Inspectorate, upon entrance at Mikeva Hyper Cash and Carry Wholesalers, a member of the Massmart Group, the general manager was approached and informed that he did not adhere to a prohibition notice issued to him on 02 April 2020. The initial notice served prohibited the employer from performing any functions at his premises as he had contravened the Occupational Health and Safety Act no. 85 of 1993.
Due to the fact that the employer had not adhered to the regulations and the prohibition notice served, the Inspectorate, accompanied by the South African Police Service (SAPS), ensured that about a 150 workers were escorted from the premises. The Department now intends to take further actions against the employer for not adhering to the notice. This notice will stand until the employer addresses all the matters as set out in the prohibition notice.
Some of the contraventions included that social-distancing was compromised between the client and cashier, that the sanitisers in the workplace was also not certified, this means that there was no indication that it met the requirements of the regulatory standards. This in itself is a dangerous practice as it gives a false sense of protection to those who use it.
According to David Esau, Provincial Chief Inspector, the inspections at workplaces are not meant to be punitive, but instead are meant to ensure compliance. “The intention is not to permanently close businesses, but to get businesses to adhere to the COVID-19 regulations as set out in the law”, he said. During this period, limited staff will therefore be able to access certain parts of the wholesaler to ensure the correct storage of perishable goods. SAPS will continue to do its rounds at the premises to ensure no additional occupancy at the building.
A follow-up visit will be conducted by the Occupational Health and Safety inspector once the employer has confirmed that all minimum standards have been put in place to ensure the safety of both employees and clients visiting the wholesaler. If the inspector is satisfied with the efforts of the employer, the prohibition notice will then be lifted.
A criminal charge has since been laid against the employer at SAPS in Mossel Bay. Furthermore, the Department also intends to report the employer to Disaster Management for not adhering to the Disaster Management Act.
The Southern Cape has since been identified as a problematic area. Due to the high number of complaints received, the OHS inspectors will continue to visit workplaces to monitor compliance, act on tip-offs and implement the necessary actions where required.