Inspection Blitz On Building Companies in South Africa
Polokwane - Labour inspectors in Limpopo have clamped down on three building sites in Polokwane during a week-long inspection blitz.
The inspectors focused on the construction sector, which is particularly prone to workplace accidents, and found that employees were not given safety gear and were forced to work without earplugs under noisy conditions that impaired their hearing, among others.
"We will be going back after three weeks to check if the problems have been addressed," said Department of Labour spokesperson, Johannes Mokou, on Tuesday.
"If we find nothing has been done, we will take legal action. People's safety comes first."
Inspectors also found that the formwork (moulds) and supports being used at one construction site did not meet South African Bureau of Standards codes, creating an immediate danger of the building collapsing.
On two other sites, employees were not wearing safety gear, while exposed wires were also a problem.
Some machine operators had not undergone a medical examination to establish their suitability for the work, were not given safety gear and were also found to be inadequately supervised.
In one instance, inspectors sent the workers off site because their overalls and boots were worn out and the company's health and safety file was found to be fake.
Labour inspector Rachel Aphane said the transgressions did not necessarily bring entire construction projects to a standstill.
"It must be realised that on these projects, only some activities have been halted, not the whole operation. Construction is a versatile sector and many employees are exposed to unsafe working conditions, but ignorance of the law is not an excuse," she said.
The inspectors checked for compliance with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, Occupational Health and Safety Act, Unemployment Insurance Fund Act and Employment Equity Act.
"While many employers in this sector may see our inspections as a witch hunt, the truth is that we want to assist them in making sure that workers are safe and that all labour laws are complied with," Mokou said.
He added that labour legislation was for the benefit of both employers and employees and that there were capable personnel on hand at labour centres to help employers comply with the law.
"If they do not comply voluntarily, we will resort to (enforcing) the law," he said.
By Ngwako Modjadji