The plant, which employs about 1400 employees, was closed on Wednesday after around 80 employees had tested positive for Covid-19 following a site inspection by the Department of Employment and Labour.
Its provincial spokesperson, chief inspector David Esau, said the plant “did not cover any of the latest Covid-19 regulations” and “no social distancing (was) being practised”.
Esau said it was worrisome that some of the big players in the economy had not been adhering to lockdown regulations.
“With the West Coast fast becoming a hotspot, all role-players need to play their part when it comes to slowing the spread of the disease
“The employer must provide sufficient evidence that processes have been put in place to address all the concerns raised.
“As part of reversing the prohibition notice, the employer must also provide evidence that the affected areas have been sufficiently disinfected,” said Esau.
The Department issued prohibition notices for Sea Harvest’s production line and entry points and the notices were also extended to sub-contractors who were working on-site.
Esau said inspections at workplaces “are not meant to be punitive, but instead are meant to ensure compliance and prevent the spread of the disease at workplaces”.
A follow-up visit to the plant will be done by the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) inspector. Sea Harvest chief executive Felix Ratheb said the company had “invited local authorities from the Department of Health (during) the week ending June 12, 2020, to interrogate our Covid-19 protocols as we were very concerned with our Saldanha positive cases which reached 85 within a 3-week time-frame”.
Ratheb said the plant resumed operations within 24 hours and where there were concerns that social distancing was “not possible” they had mitigated this through the use of personal protective equipment for staff.
“This was meant to be a collaborative approach with the (labour department). It was not meant to be punitive. They suggested that certain issues in only parts of the fresh fish facility in Saldanha needed to be addressed, which we welcomed and rectified within 24 hours.”
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