Department of Labour flouting its own health, safety regulations

Durban – The Department of Labour has zero tolerance for companies which do not comply with the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act and Regulations.

But now, the department is accused of doing the opposite by being in contravention of it own rules and failing to comply with OHS reports Siphelele Buthelezi of IOL.

Staff at its offices at the Royal Hotel in Durban claim they were exposed to unhygienic and unsafe working conditions to which the management has allegedly turned a blind eye.

The challenges encountered by staff include being overcrowded to a point that some employees have to work in spaces meant to be passageways and endure unpleasant odours from a carpet as a result of a ceiling which leaks when it rains.

They also complain about a lack of cleaners, and waste piling up in corridors and toilets.

In addition, air-conditioners are faulty and windows kept shut, they complain.

“We have been working in such an environment for more than five years and it seems the management is not willing to resolve this and create a healthy and safe environment for us. The management does not renew the cleaning company contract when it expires and they tell us to clean up – ourselves.

“We are getting sick because of the filth and odour from the wet carpet. The place is enclosed, there’s no fresh air,” said an employee who requested anonymity.

The department has been leasing 11 floors at the Royal Hotel for more than 10 years. The provincial office is responsible for servicing the regional offices.

Staff, including those from human resources, the UIF and occupational inspectors, are also based there.

“There’s no compliance with OHS and our inspectors are not acting on this because they fear the management. When it rains, staff get rotated all over the place. You get managers asking if anyone is on leave so they can use their offices to accommodate other employees.

“We are overloaded and many of us don’t even know where the emergency exits are. If this was happening in another company, they would have been fined or closed by the department long ago,” said another employee.

“The head of the department is aware of this, but she has not done anything, We can only assume its because she is not affected. Her office is on another floor, away from us,” said the employee.

Spokesperson Teboho Thejane said management was aware of the situation and had engaged the landlord to address the leakages.

“Our occupational health and safety specialists have cordoned the affected areas off to ensure the safety of employees, and service delivery has not been affected.”

Source: Sunday Tribune

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Jessica van Zyl

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