Update – A statement from Hisense has been included at the end of the article. The company confirmed that its Atlantis factory has subsequently reopened.
The Hisense TV and appliance factory in the Western Cape has re-opened after the Department of Employment and Labour ordered it closed for not adhering to COVID-19 safety regulations.
Hisense’s factory is located in Atlantis, a community 50km North of the Cape Town CBD.
In a recent statement, the Department of Employment and Labour said it conducted an inspection at the factory on 22 July and found Hisense to be in contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
After a walk around the factory, inspectors reported that the company did not follow some of the basic principles associated with the Act and COVID-19 regulations.
Hisense could not produce an updated risk assessment that spoke to the latest COVID-19 regulations, nor could it produce any sanitising plan.
As a result, the Department of Employment and Labour served a prohibition notice on the plant.
“Prohibition notices essentially means that no work may take place at the premises where the notice was served,” the department stated.
“The Department had no option but to close the entire plant due to non-compliances.”
Cramped workers, lack of ventilation
Upon further investigation, inspectors found that a group of Chinese workers were crammed into a small space which ignored social distancing principles.
A temporary boardroom was used to house a different group of employees, also contravening social distancing regulations.
In addition to social distancing concerns, inspectors also reported ventilation issues due to staff being cordoned off.
They also reported observing that there was no equal distribution of personal protective equipment at the company.
David Esau, the Provincial Chief Inspector, said that Hisense is one of the major employers in the area and its non-compliance with COVID-19 regulations may have a detrimental effect on the whole community.
“As part of reversing the prohibition notice, the employer must provide evidence that processes have been put in place to address all the concerns raised,” said Esau.
In addition to the prohibition notice, the department also placed the Hisense factory under review as the company could not produce any Employment Equity compliance documents. It was given notice to produce evidence of compliance within 14 days.
Hisense employs approximately 400 workers, of which 37 are foreign workers, the department reported.
A spokesperson for the department has told MyBroadband that the prohibition notice has since been lifted and the factory was allowed to re-open on Friday, 24 July.
After Hisense reported that it has addressed the safety concerns, a senior inspector went out to the factory to verify the issues had indeed been corrected.
Esau will still visit the factory to further discuss the matter with Hisense management to ensure that the factory remains compliant, the spokesperson said.
Hisense’s investment in Atlantis
Last year, the Ministry of Trade and Industry welcomed Hisense’s investment of a further R72 million into its television and fridge production lines at its Atlantis factory, bringing its total investment in the plan to R440 million.
In March 2019, the plant was said to have created permanent employment for over 500 people.
Update – Statement from Hisense
Hisense provided MyBroadband with the following statement:
We are finding ourselves in unchartered territory, not only personally but also as a company. Hisense
considers the health and safety of our employees to be a priority.
We have the latest certificate from Department of Labour.
We can assure you our employees have been thoroughly briefed and equipped with the necessary
disposable masks as well as social distancing protocols. However, our team has been tasked to stay abreast
of future changes with regards to the Covid-19 health and safety protocols and to keep a strict eye on
employees to adhere to safety protocols.
We have also appointed Hazgiene (Pty) Ltd with immediate effect on a 12-month contract to carry out
Specialised Cleaning. Their cleaning technicians follow the WHO (World Health Organisation),
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), CDC (Centre for Disease Control) and NICD (National Institute of
Communicable Diseases) approved chemicals and processes that have high kill rates for the SARS-CoV-2
Virus. Their services exceed the scope of general cleaning in an industrial environment.
Hisense have invested more funds in acquiring additional sanitation units and we continuously prioritise
creating a safe working environment for our employees. We pride ourselves in increasing local
employment to the community and therefore take all safety protocols seriously. We have invested millions
in the efforts to keep our employees safe; furthermore we are working tirelessly in collaboration with the
South African government and lawyers to get better support for Enterprise Development.
The report from the Department of Labour as well as photos of the factory is available on request.
We thank you for reaching out to us and for allowing us the opportunity to provide you with insight on an
exaggerated view of the events that took place.