Sea Harvest's Saldanha Bay operations shut down due to non-compliance with Covid-19 regulations
Sea Harvest CEO, Felix Ratheb, says the fishing group has now implemented "stringent measures" to ensure that it complies with all Covid-19 regulations and combat the spread of the virus in its operations.
This comes as the company was forced to shut doors in its Saldanha Bay operations for allegedly not complying with Covid-19 regulations while 80 of its staff members have tested positive for Covid-19, the Department of Employment and Labour in the Western Cape said on Saturday.
The department served the fishing company with notices on Wednesday, instructing it to stop all work in areas covered by the notices which included the company's production line and entry points. Sub-contractors who were working on-site in Saldanha Bay were also not able to carry on with any work.
"Prohibition notices essentially means that no work may take place at any of the areas where notices were served," said the department in a statement.
Ratheb said the company closed its Saldanha operations from midday on 17 to 18 June 2020 but it was given clearance to reopen on 19 June 2020. He said it was the firm that invited the Department of Labour to inspect its facilities on 17 June and to advise it where it could improve.
Ratheb said some of the measures that the company has put in place include the usual screening and sanitising transport for staff. But it has also manned its onsite clinic with six nurses and a doctor and has erected structures that force social distancing among workers.
Sea Harvest is one of the biggest employers in the West Coast region, with over 1 400 workers directly depending on the company for their livelihoods. The department said the major concerns were that Sea Harvest "is confronted with over 80 employees who have been infected with the Covid-19 virus" and had no social distancing practices in the workplace.
David Esau, Western Cape Provincial Chief Inspector said the intention of carrying out inspections in companies is not to permanently close their businesses, but to get them to adhere to the Covid-19 regulations. As such, the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) inspector does follow-up visits and once the company has confirmed that all minimum standards have been put in place, the prohibition of operations is then lifted.