Inspections were the first in a series of national workplace investigations
More than half the businesses that were targeted for spot labour inspections in the northern Free State town of Heilbron last week were found to be in contravention of labour laws, according to the labour department.
Department spokesperson Zolisa Sigabi said that out of 74 workplaces visited a total of 41 employers had failed to comply with legislation.
There were 28 contraventions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, some employers were not registered with the Compensation Fund and Unemployment Insurance Fund, while others were not adhering to the Basic Conditions of Employment and the Employment Equity Acts.
"The department has issued a stern warning to employers, who risked workers' lives by exposing them to appalling working conditions, to mend their ways or face the might of the law," said Sigabi.
The violators were issued with written warnings to comply with the law within 21 days or risk being fined or worse still, being dragged to court and even jailed.
The Heilbron inspections were the first in a series of national workplace inspections this year. The labour department will be conducting a sweep of businesses across the country to ensure that labour laws are adhered to.
Companies in private security, contract cleaning, wholesale and retail, manufacturing and construction were visited.
In some of the workplaces, employees did not have employment contracts, receive pay slips or sign attendance registers, and they were being underpaid.
In other cases, inspectors found expired fire extinguishers, and no copies of the Occupational Health and Safety Act on site or risk assessments.
"We will be moving on to the Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal and then onto other regions in the next few weeks. This was a good start," said Sigabi.