“NUM is disturbed and saddened by the conduct of Koeberg Power Station management. Koeberg Power Station management does not respect the lives of its employees and the priority of the management is production over the life of our members,” the organisation said in a statement on Tuesday.
The union said last week that an employee at Koeberg’s operating department fell sick and was sent for testing and it emerged that the employee tested positive for Covid-19.
“In the case of the employee who tested positive, the area was never immediately barricaded so that it can be cleaned or disinfected within 48 hours. Employees were still allowed in the workplace which had possible contamination of the virus.”
NUM said the employee who tested positive was working with 21 other employees and that he also interacted with other employees in other departments like the outage control centre.
“The employees who come into contact are still not self-quarantined. They are still required to attend work as per their shift roster.
“In a separate incident that also took place at Koeberg, we as NUM, we were also reliably informed that a security personnel, who is a Koeberg employee, came into contact with a contractor driver who is confirmed to have tested positive for Covid-19, but he was not sent home. He was also not immediately asked to self-quarantine, [but] instead he was asked to report to duty.”
The union said Koeberg’s management was compromising the safety of their members.
“Our understanding of nuclear professionalism is that safety comes first. In the case of Koeberg, production comes first and safety is compromised.
“The NUM is calling on the department of health and the department of labour to investigate the conduct of Koeberg Power Station management. The NUM and all its members at Koeberg are willing to provide evidence to back our observation.
“It is safe for us to conclude that the health and safety of employees have been violated knowingly, willingly and deliberately.”
Power utility Eskom confirmed the Covid-19 case of an employee at the station.
“It is not clear where the employee contracted the virus. The employee in question went to consult their doctor after feeling sick. The individual immediately reported the fact that they were positive to their manager and were subsequently put in isolation, in accordance with Eskom’s policy on containing the pandemic,” the utility said in a statement on Wednesday.
Eskom said they served all the protocols for dealing with the pandemic, and immediately contacted all those employees who were contact with him and those employees who were in close contact with him were immediately placed in precautionary isolation.
“The area environment in while they work in was cleaned and disinfected, in line with the Covid-19 guidance and Eskom policies. Of the seven employees that were tested for Covid-19 following contact with the infected person, thus far six results have been received, and they are all Covid-19 negative.
“Eskom is assisting the sad employee while undergoing treatment, and has taken all precautionary measures to prevent the virus coming into the workplace and to protect all of its teams and the workplace,” they said.
The utility welcomed an independent review of the incident by both the department of labour or health.
“It must also be stated clearly that Eskom, like many other businesses and institutions, does have other cases of employees who have tested positive for Covid-19. These employees who work in other operations and power stations other than Koeberg, are also members of the general South African population that is exposed to the current pandemic,” Eskom said.
Eskom said it take its responsibility of protecting its workforce very seriously and had put strict infection prevention and containment measures in place along with testing body temperatures and handing out sanitisers.