Employer fined R20 000 for ignoring Labour inspection PPE instructions

SA Labour inspectors fined a Rustenburg employer R20 000 for ignoring Labour inspection instructions about an electrical certificate and PPE.

The admission of guilt fine was raised against Reboni Furniture factory in Mogwase, about 50 km from Rustenburg, in June 2014

The employer was initially asked for electrical certificate of compliance (COC) for the electrical installation at the factory, and to provide workers with protective clothing as provided for in the Electrical Installation Regulation (IER) 7 (1), and General Safety Regulation (GSR) 2 (2), under authority of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Labour North West Provincial Chief Director Andile Makapela said the employer was summoned to appear before the Mogwase Magistrates Court on 26 May 2014.

“That is when the employer realised that ignoring Labour inspection instructions is a criminal offence, and he opted to settle the matter out of court by admitting guilt,” Makapela said.

Makapela commended the work of the inspectorate and its increased visibility. He said the department’s move to increase the number of inspectors and labour inspections in the country, and to raise specialisation skills among inspectors, were giving Labour inspection more muscle.

“Employers must know that failure to obey health and safety laws, equals prosecution,” Makapela said.

Labour tirade about ‘small’ fine

While some employers are searching their legal registers for the mechanisms that allow the DOL to apparently mix and match criminal and civil law, and the concepts of fines and ‘settlements’, in the absence of a court ruling, a labour union went on a tirade in a media release quoted below;

The Congress of South African Trade Unions in the North West province is disappointed to hear that the Reboni Furniture Factory employers are only paying the sum of R20 000 as an admission of guilt fine for not complying with almost all the labour laws and the Occupational Health and Safety Act and treating workers like slaves.

It is on record with the Department of Labour (DOL) that both Sun City and Reboni have not been complying, and that many of our members and other employees have lost fingers and some other parts of their body and that their health is in a bad condition due to poor conditions of work, including not being provided with protective clothes.

We have been told that Sun City also paid some few rands and now that Reboni have paid R20 000, when the lives of those poor workers is doomed due to their conduct. This means that the employer will continue to undermine the laws of this country with the view that he is the master of the bank. He will pay any amount that the court may demand them to pay while workers are dying and losing their body parts.

It is disappointing to hear that the DOL is celebrating this, when our members are killed, injured or made ill due to the poor conditions of work.

We call on the DOL to also go public about all employers that have been taken to court for not complying and tell the public the amount paid by those employers, in particular farmers where workers have lost lives and been disabled due to non-compliance. It must also include the amount that Sun City paid as they were also party to the court case in Mogwase for not complying

We are totally not happy for those who celebrate the paying of R20 000 when our members are in pain for what the capitalists did to them. The DOL must represent the interest of both parties and make sure that everybody complies with the laws of this country.

We have gone public on some of allegations that employers do not comply knowing very well that they will use their money to pay, yet they cannot pay workers’ salaries; they cannot even pay to improve the conditions of workers, and refusing the pay the medical expenses when workers are hospitalised.

Workers have opened cases against the same man to both the Mogwase police station and the DOL after workers were shot by live ammunition and rubber bullets and assaulted by the security staff from the same company, yet till today the case is nowhere; nothing has happened. Yet some people are celebrating the payment of R20 000 when poor workers are treated in that manner and being dismissed for demanding their rights.

We must also be told publicly about the allegation that workers made against certain officials of the DOL during that strike and why there is no public report on them, as they and their friends continue to exploit workers.

We call on the DOL to respect workers and their families, those who lost their body parts and were injured in the some company and those who are traumatized due to that situation.

We are highly disappointed about the paying R20 000 at the expense of the lives of the poor workers, said Cosatu North West province.

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Edmond Furter

Editor at Sheqafrica.com
Edmond Furter is the editor of Sheqafrica.com. He is a freelance technical journalist, and has won six journalism awards. He specialises in industrial, business, and cultural content in web, journal, and book formats.

4 thoughts on “Employer fined R20 000 for ignoring Labour inspection PPE instructions

  1. A victory is a victory I guess but relatively speaking this is not even scratching the surface of OHS non compliances.

    I wonder if the fine system in it’s current format is even enough to deter non compliances, wouldn’t it be better if fines were a proportion of a company’s profits 9severity factored offcourse)? We all know there’s companies with huge risk appetites such that even the most expensive fine is not even equal to what the company spent entertaining it’s clients the previous month. One could argue that the risk of criminal prosecution should supplement the fine but experience has proven otherwise, the threat is still there yet compliance is not getting any better.

    Perhaps the focus then on enforcing compliance should be more in line with the approach Environmental Legislation follows, not only punishing offenders but also incentivizing those who comply end encourage self-regulation. It’s no secret the DoL doesn’t have enough manpower to police, yet legislation doesn’t embrace other measures to encourage compliance.

  2. i do agree with salatisto, having worked for my employer for the past six years. i have come to notice that construction safety officers are only vital in the sector only for getting them projects once they get the projects we turn to be white lions. when you try to enforce the OHS Law they turn to you and say they pay you, even if they dont comply you cant enforce them as you are their employee.

    i wonder if the department of labour have it in them to try to enforce the OHS law in all the sectors and balance the equation. moreover in construction as more death at the workplace happens in contsruction than any other sector.

  3. Some of the large corporates I’ve worked for talk a lot about being very OHS aware, (and Skills development as well), but in reality they are reluctant to spend the money required to meet the bare minimum legal requirements, and they take a chance that nothing will go wrong -they ignore things like electrical compliance certificates, recurrent operator certification (forklifts, cranes ,haz goods transport), periodic pressure vessel testing and load testing, particularly if the operations are peripheral to their main business.

    The problem is that a lot of the decision makers sit behind desks in the company headquarters, and don’t really appreciate the workplace risk and hazards to which their staff are exposed.

    However if a serious or fatal accident occurs the senior managers and directors who decline to authorize the budget for these safety items are very quick to duck the blame and find a scapegoat.

  4. I agree with Cosatu in North West that the fine of R20 000 is not enough for the deviations indicated above, particularly if the employer was given a so-called Contravention Notice and a chance to fix. DoL must put more emphasis on penalties at such workplaces.

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