Northern KZN farms violating safety laws

2011-05-18 00:00

DEPARTMENT of Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant has warned employers flouting labour laws and safety procedures to comply with the department’s labour standards or they will be harshly dealt with.

Oliphant recently visited forestry and farms in the Paulpietersburg area of northern KZN where she discovered that many farms are not complying with the labour standards. Of the 12 farms she visited, only two were compliant.

Among the violations that the department inspectors picked up was the flouting of occupational health and safety standards.

They found that some farms had no proof of a safety induction programme in place, no risk assessment plan made available, lack of health and safety represantatives appointed, exposure to high levels of noise and dust, a lack of general safety signage, and difficulty in accessing fire-fighting equipment in case of emergencies.

Jay Anand, the provincial department’s spokesperson, said the department has cited several farms to which inspectors handed out 54 contravention notices for occupational health and safety non-compliance and secured 49 written undertakings for Employment Equity and Basic Conditions of Employment Act violations.

He said that in some cases the citations brought 90% of the work to a standstill.

Oliphant expressed concerns about the low levels of compliance by employers in the area. “At one timber factory six prohibition notices were issued, halting 90% of operations due to, among others, poor electricity installations, dangerous revolving conveyor belts, machinery and illegal stacking.”

She urged the workers to prioritise their safety and to “ensure that health and safety reps continue to monitor all aspects of workplace safety and bring these to the attention of workers and employers”.

“Employers should also fulfil their obligation to ensure that workers’ lives and their safety are not threatened in the workplace, the provision of relevant training and adequate protective wear must be made available by all employers.”

Oliphant warned employers of the consequences of non-compliance, saying the department’s officers should continue to monitor the area and bring defaulting employers into line.

She said the inspection report will be sent to AgriSA, social partners and the departments of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry and Health for their interventions.

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