Rules in place to manage work sites

2013-11-22 00:00

CONSTRUCTION can be a dangerous activity, especially where working at heights is concerned. This is according to the South African Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors (Safcec) health and safety specialist Rudolph Murray.

Safcec has a professional component that provides members with guidance and advice regarding health and safety matters, legislation and best practice, and is a national representative of civil engineering contractors.

He said South Africa is looking far better when compared to other developing countries such as Brazil, Russia, India, and China (Brics).

“We actually fare far better than them,” Murray added. He said, though, it was uncommon for buildings to collapse while they are being constructed.

Cosatu in a statement yesterday claimed the construction sector in South Africa has the highest on site accident rate and that “this is worrying”.

“We further argue that many of these incidences go unreported. We call upon all workers at all construction sites and other work­places to report such incidents without fear or favour,” it said.

Murray said accurate statistics are difficult to obtain as the compensation commissioner has challenges in providing the latest figures of how many people die or get injured on duty at construction sites.

However, he said according to Federal Employers Mutual, 58 fatalities and 5 386 accidents of various types were reported to them thus far this year.

“Of the fatalities, 31 were the result of motor vehicle accidents and 10 due to falls to a different level,” he told The Witness.

Murray believes that checks and balances should always be in place before a structure of the magnitude of the Tongaat mall is constructed.

“From the design and procurement stages, safety should be a major consideration and it is vital that competent and experienced professionals should form part of the team. Adequate supervision is also non-negotiable.”

He said it is not only in the construction firms that employers hire unqualified labourers.

“As a responsible employers’ organisation, we obviously discourage such practices … there is a sectoral determination in place, which specifies minimum wages and employers are legally compelled to pay these wages,” he added.

Murray said there are factors that are beyond the control of the contractor, such as speeding motorists on road construction projects.

Consulting Engineers South Africa (Cesa) president Abe Thela said South Africa has stringent legislation and regulations that must be complied with before construction of a building should commence.

“These include the Occupational Health and Safety Act and associated construction regulations, National Environmental Act, municipal bylaws for zoning and more.

“Compliance with these regulations coupled with the appointment of competent engineers based on quality including experience and expertise rather than lowest price, and with adequate supervision allowed for will avert unfortunate failures such as this,” said Thela.

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