The Department of Employment and Labour has bemoaned the low levels of compliance with health and safety measures by employers, as the country battles the third wave of COVID-19 infections.
In a statement, the department said failure to comply was partly evident in the face of rising claims being received by the Compensation Fund.
Some of those failures include proper screening of employees for COVID-19 symptoms when they present for duty and the provision of COVID-19 risk assessments. This also includes lapses in the provision of paper towels for drying of hands after washing, and general health and safety risk assessment.
The findings were made by the department’s Inspector General, Aggy Moiloa, in a report that deals with inspections that were conducted from 5-7 July 2021.
“Under the leadership of Minister Thulas Nxesi, the Inspection and Enforcement Services put together a programme to target high risk areas and hotspots for inspection. These were conducted across the country, with the exception of Limpopo, which has a cluster of COVID-19 cases affecting the inspectorate.
“In general, we found 50% compliance in the private sector. This is a breakdown of 149 compliant against 151 non-compliant workplaces.
“The public sector did not cover itself in glory at all with compliance as low as 25%, with the caveat that inspections were only conducted in KwaZulu-Natal and Northern Cape only (12 inspections with nine workplaces compliant). Anything below 80% should be a concern,” said Moiloa.
In terms of the inspections, the breakdown for the provinces is:
- KZN conducted most of the inspections, with 105.
- KZN conducted most of the follow-up inspections, with 14 followed, by the Northern Cape with 13.
- Limpopo did not conduct inspections due to COVID-19 cases in several labour centres affecting the inspectors there.
- The Free State and North West conducted two inspections each, as per their plan.
- The lowest levels of compliance were in the Northern Cape at 23%.
A total of 312 inspections were conducted in this period and of those, 12 were in public sector provincial inspections.
The highest number of inspections were directed at the Health Department, which showed 80% non-compliance.
A total number of 128 notices were served, broken down to seven prohibition notices (closure), 109 contravention notices and 12 improvement notices served nationally. Most of these notices were served by KZN and the Northern Cape, which collectively had the most inspections.
With regard to the pandemic, inspectors found that employers have not taken up some of the guidelines issued in the Consolidated Direction on Occupational Health and Safety Measures.
Meanwhile, the Compensation Fund (CF) has seen a steady rise in claims, which now total 25 010, with R78 million already spent on support, including medical aid claims, total temporary disablement, dependent benefits and funeral costs.
“There is a direct correlation between what happens or does not happen in the workplace and the claims we get served with. Thankfully, we have the inspectors holding employers accountable. Without their service, this picture would likely be a lot worse.
“Unfortunately, 76 of those claims received are for workplace fatalities, which could have been avoided if guidelines were followed as they should be,” said CF Commissioner Vuyo Mafata.