THERE is no place to hide for retailers and wholesalers who flout labour laws.

That's according to Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana, who was speaking at the start of a week-long blitz on errant employers in the wholesale and retail industry.

The targeted industry makes up almost 43percent of small business operations in South Africa, with thousands of employees.

In KwaZulu-Natal the blitz saw labour inspectors from 16 centres cracking the whip on more than 600 employers in both Durban and Pietermaritzburg. The crackdown started last week and wound down yesterday.

KwaZulu-Natal department of labour spokesperson Jay Anand said the inspections revealed an alarmingly low level of compliance, with more than half of the workplaces visited found to be contravening various aspects of employment conditions and safety standards.

Anand was tight-lipped about who the offending parties were but confirmed that they were major players in the industry.

"In Pietermaritzburg our inspectors served prohibition notices on two major retail supermarkets where it was found that there was a danger to the lives of workers as a result of occupational health and safety measures being disregarded," Anand said.

"In one instance the employer did not provide the appropriate personal protective wear for working in a coldroom.

"This was in direct violation of the environmental regulations for workplaces.

At the second supermarket, the employer did not comply with electrical installation regulations.

"The notices remain in force in both instances and will not be revoked until our inspectors are satisfied that all safety measures are met."

Anand said no prohibition notices had been served in Durban.

Department of Labour spokesperson Page Boikanyo said the wholesale and retail industry, which employs thousands in the formal non-agricultural sector, plays a key role in the economy because it provides infrastructure and services for the distribution of goods from suppliers to intermediates or final consumers.