coronavirus retail
Safety and health in the retail and wholesale industry is the labour department's biggest concern. (Image: Getty)
  • The labour department says wholesalers and retailers are some of the biggest transgressors when it comes to Covid-19 safety and health practices.
  • The department says it is paying particular attention to the sector because it has the potential to be super-spreader events.
  • Others allegedly failing to comply with rules include the construction and financial services industries.
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Retailers and wholesalers in the Western Cape have been issued with the most contravention notices for ignoring Covid-19 health and safety protocols, according to the department of labour.

Other problem areas include the Free State, the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and Mpumalanga, says acting spokesperson for the labour department Musa Zondi. 

Over 1,180 contraventions have been identified at companies in the retail sector nationwide, adds Zondi. In addition, 236 prohibitions have been issued, and 411 improvement notices handed out.

Other types of businesses may also be at fault, but a lot more inspections are being conducted in the retail industry because of the high number of people visiting stores, according to Zondi – and the potential for trouble that brings.

See also | How to report businesses that flout Covid rules

“The number of the actual inspections determine whether there’s a lot more findings against a particular industry or not. And the reason why wholesale and retail was critical for us is because, if you look at the issues of Covid, it’s particularly important because there are so many people that walk into a supermarket,” says Zondi.

The department has previously found some retail stores did not have proper risk assessments in place, with poor sanitisation. In some cases, staff did not wear the necessary personal protective gear.

“If things are not done properly, those become super-spreaders. It was important that to define those areas that have the potential of being super spreaders and do as much inspections as possible,” he says.

The labour department has three types of notices for non-compliance:

  • An improvement notice, where a company is given a warning and asked to resolve the issues flagged by the inspectorate. Improvement notices are issued for minor transgressions.
  • The second notice is a prohibition notice where operations are halted until the employer addresses all the concerns flagged by the department.
  • Failure to comply leads to a contravention notice where the employer is expected to appear before a labour court.

Other sectors the department says it found flouting rules include the construction industry, agriculture, financial services - particularly call centres and ATMs - as well as hospitality and manufacturing.

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