Store closed for breaking lockdown laws

Shoppers practise physical distancing by using trolleys to maintain the space between them.

The provincial Department of Employment and Labour closed the doors of Pick n Pay at Liberty Promenade Mall last week after inspectors found the store to be unsafe and in contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety Act no. 85 of 1993.

The store was closed on Thursday April 16 and issued with a prohibition notice until the store addresses all the matters as set out in the notice.

Some of the contraventions included that the store did not have the proper risk assessment in place; there was a high influx of people in the store and the number of people in the store was not adequately managed; the store could not manage the sanitising of patrons on entry and physical distancing was not observed.

On the day of the closure, the department’s inspectors, accompanied by the police, escorted workers and patrons from the premises. A warning has also since been issued to the management of the Liberty Promenade Mall for not putting effective measures in place to ensure physical distancing in the mall.

Provincial chief inspector, David Esau, said inspections at workplaces are not meant to be punitive, but instead are meant to ensure compliance.

“The intention is not to permanently close businesses, but to get businesses to adhere to the Covid-19 regulations as set out in the law.”

wHe said 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 store was sufficiently disinfected. This includes all areas of the store, including staff refreshment areas, warehousing and goods receiving areas,” he said.

Pick * Pay reopened its doors the following afternoon, on Friday April 17.

The Department of Employment and Labour said occupational health and safety inspectors will continue to visit workplaces to monitor compliance, act on tip-offs and implement the necessary actions where required.

The Plainsman visited Pick * Pay on Saturday April 18. At the till points, cashiers disinfected the till area after every customer – this they need to record in a book kept at their tills.

Pick * Pay spokesperson Janine Caradonna confirmed that no one in the store or any Pick * Pay employee had the Covid-19 virus.

She said the store makes sure people practised physical distancing, sanitised people’s hands and encouraged people to wear masks. Their trolleys are sanitised and they only let in a few people at a time.

“Our top priority is the health and safety of our customers and staff, and we have effective measures to keep our stores hygienic and our customers and staff safe,” said Ms Caradonna.

Their prevention measures in-store include transparent perspex screens at all till points. They are also making non-surgical face masks available to front-line staff, following new guidelines from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health.

Expert advice is that frequent and proper hand-washing is still the most effective measure against the virus, and the staff are required to sanitise or wash their hands throughout the day. “They have also made hand sanitisers readily available for all staff and customers in stores, said Ms Caradonna.

“We also have clear distancing policies in all our stores. This includes floor markers and asking customers to queue and shop with a trolley so that safe physical distancing can be maintained at all times. We are also limiting the number of people in store if required and this will be determined by each store and their size,” she said.