The alleged flouting of various health and safety regulations, and non-reporting of a major and serious incident, has resulted in a prohibition notice being issued by Department of Employment and Labour (DEL) inspectors to Coega Steel, in Gqeberha, in the Eastern Cape.
The discovery of noncompliance came to light after an occupational health and safety inspector received anonymous pictures of a Coega Steel employee with burns on their hands and face, resulting from an alleged explosion that took place at the employer’s furnace department, reportedly on August 22.
The alleged incident, which left employees traumatised, revealed that five employees were injured in the incident, all sustaining multiple burns to their bodies from face, neck, chest, head, hands and ankles as a result of the explosion.
The explosion allegedly took place during a night shift and was not reported to the DEL.
The DEL says Coega Steel continued with production on the same day, without conducting an internal investigation to ascertain the root cause of the incident, concluding that the incident was the result of human error.
As a result of this non-compliance, inspectors handed over a prohibition notice to stop all operations at the furnace department.
The employer was also instructed to attend to the traumatised employees.
However, to date, the DEL states, Coega Steel is yet to report the incident, as prescribed.
“The[re] is a high rate of fatal incidents in sectors such as agriculture, chemicals, iron and steel, as well as construction and investigations regarding the incident [are] underway,” says DEL Eastern Cape head of department Nomfundo Douw-Jack.
She added that, as the custodians of the Occupational Safety Act, the department will ensure that employees’ rights are protected and that employers who contravene the law are brought to book.