Worker's heatwave death to be probed

2012-01-18 12:20

Cape Town - Extremely hot weather was the possible cause of the death of a construction worker in southern Paarl, the Western Cape health department said on Wednesday.

"We have not concluded an autopsy so the exact cause of death cannot be confirmed," spokesperson Faiza Steyn said.

She said the 55-year-old unidentified man had been working on the building site of an industrial development on Tuesday.

Three of his colleagues were admitted to Paarl hospital and were treated for dehydration.

"All were treated with fluid replacement and two were discharged after treatment," she said.

Temperatures in Paarl and the rest of the Cape hovered between 38 and 43°C on Tuesday.

Paarl was expected to reach a high of 35°C on Wednesday.

The SA Weather Service said on Tuesday that temperatures were likely to drop a few degrees by Thursday.

  • GrootWitHaai - 2012-01-18 13:09

    Hydration is the keyword here.

  • Deon - 2012-01-18 13:18

    Where was the site Safety Officer??

      Squeegee - 2012-01-18 13:22

      Enlighten me please. At what size of construction does a 'site' need one?

      Mike - 2012-01-18 14:16

      @Squeegee, according the OHS Act "17. Health and safety representatives. - (1) Subject to the provisions of subsection (2), every employer who has more than 20 employees in his employment at any workplace, shall, within four months after the commencement of this Act or after commencing business, or from such time as the number of employees exceeds 20, as the case may be, designate in writing for a specified period health and safety representatives for such workplace". It is thus conceivable that there would be no requirement for a H&S rep on the site.

      TamaraSays - 2012-01-18 14:34

      As far as I remember (having worked in construction for a long time) safety officers are required on all construction sites. Or at the very least, a responsible person.

      Mike - 2012-01-18 17:38

      @Tamara, do you know if that is a legislated requirement (outside of OSHA) or is that merely something that companies generally do?

      TamaraSays - 2012-01-18 18:14

      There is a specific piece of documentation related to it: the Construction Regulations. Aside from which, when you tender on a job (which an industrial development would like to include in the award process) you're usually required to write OHS plans into your documentation. If it's a JBCC contract at least, and I believe it's the same with GCC.

  • Jeffrey - 2012-01-18 13:19

    "Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun."

      larisha.toffar - 2012-01-18 14:00

      unfortunately some people have to work for food, shelter, clothes, school fees.

  • Bernard - 2012-01-18 13:29

    Sorry about the poor fellow, had all staff been advised in a daily toolbox talk about the importance of staying hydrated during these overly hot days, had the risk assessment been updated, explained and signed?

      DuToitCoetzee - 2012-01-18 13:57

      Get out of your air conditioned office and join reality in Paarl. Yes to all those questions. This is most probably not a WBH project and you can't shift the buildings into the shade to work. Working somewhere high up and than afterwards being on the ground you only start feeling the effect. No signing of anything and explanation can help you with realization when the individual do not control him/herself. In construction work workers can take in fluid and believe they are ok till they stop work, rest in the shade and than reality kicks in. When the body gets calm and experience the better condition the shock of the real condition of it hits the brain. You have to experience it before understanding and believe me Paarl can be the closes to hell that anyone will experience.

      DuToitCoetzee - 2012-01-18 13:58

      Not mend ugly. Just explaining:)

  • Simon - 2012-01-18 13:42

    do adults need to be told to drink water? feeding and hydrating yourself is your own responsibilty

      Mike - 2012-01-18 14:03

      This might seem logical Simon but the rapid onset of heat stroke or dehydration is not something that many people would correctly identify. Once heat stroke sets in only rapid intervention by trained personnel will save the person as their own temperature control mechanisms shut down (e.g. the person stops sweating). The OHS Act also holds the employer accountable for providing a safe working environment which would therefore include precautions against dangerous exposure to high heat conditions.

      larisha.toffar - 2012-01-18 14:06

      no adults don't need to be told this but they can also not sit under a tree and relax the whole day, there should be more consistent water breaks and water should have been provided (remember we are not sure if there was water on the site or any other means of fluid) I think the safety officer or supervisor should have also seen to this. He was a good worker I hope his employers will honor him for this.. may his soul rest in peace and my condolences to the family

      GrootWitHaai - 2012-01-18 14:14

      In the US Army the soldiers are constantly told to drink water. Seems people do sometimes forget.

      Craig - 2012-01-18 15:13

      @Mark, I find that too much water in my dagga makes it bloody difficult to light.

  • Xoli - 2012-01-18 14:15

    Shame man I feel for his family, and hope people in Upington and Tzaneen saw this piece cause those two places are the closest to HELL..45 degree Celcius SHOE...

  • Mphotent - 2012-01-18 16:18

    I wonder!

  • ISO - 2012-01-18 17:14

    In this type of heat, one should down tools- specially when you work outside.

  • Mel - 2012-01-18 20:37

    Thats all fine and good but too late once the horse has bolted...Get your act together occupational safety and health, of course silly me there probaly isn't such a thing in SA...Shame on the system.

  • Monica - 2012-02-29 11:30

    how can they let people work in that heat that very wrong

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