Thulas Nxesi. Picture: SUNDAY WORLD
Thulas Nxesi. Picture: SUNDAY WORLD

The public sector has recorded the highest number of workplaces not complying with the Covid-19 health and safety regulations, the employment &  labour department said.

This could inadvertently expose workers to the coronavirus as an estimated 8-million people returned to work on June 1, when SA eased to level 3 lockdown.

The department conducted inspections at 4,306 workplaces across the public and private sectors since the lockdown began, and only 2,374 were in compliance.

Most cases of non-compliance have been flagged in both the public and private health-care institutions, where more than 1,000 health-care workers tested positive for Covid-19, some of whom have since lodged claims against the Compensation Fund.

The fund provides compensation to employees who are injured or contract diseases through the course of their employment. It is financed by levies paid by employers. Since October 18 2019, about R70m in benefits have been paid.

Employment and labour department inspector-general Aggy Moiloa said non-compliance in the public sector accounted for 54%, while the private sector recorded 43%. The low compliance level was unacceptable. “Employers have a legal duty to ensure that all workers operate under conditions of safety, especially with rising cases of coronavirus afflictions,” said Moiloa.

Departmental spokesperson Teboho Thejane said they had  an advocacy campaign aimed at ensuring employers and workers know their rights and obligations.

“Therefore, our work is also educational and assisting employers to comply. Ultimately, we promote a decent  work agenda. Complying workplaces will result in safe and healthy work environment,” said Thejane.

However, the department warned that workplaces not complying will be “dealt with” through relevant legislative framework.

“Depending on the nature and severity of the transgression, a correction notice, compliance order or even a prohibition order can be issued,” said Thejane.

Since the lockdown began in March, the employment & labour department has closed a number of shopping outlets across the country for, among other things, failing to comply with Covid-19 regulations and not adhering to the occupational health and safety measures.

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za