Half a million construction workers could be at risk

2016-05-24 19:50
Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant (Picture: GCIS)

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant (Picture: GCIS)

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Cape Town - About 500 000 workers are risking their lives on construction sites that do not comply with health and safety laws, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said on Tuesday.

As much as 40% of the industry did not comply with these laws, which translated to about 5 000 construction sites across the country.

The risks came from issues like lack of compliance with health and safety regulations to “deliberate ignorance”.

The situation had become slightly better since construction regulations were introduced in 2014. These made it a requirement to use a construction health and safety agent and get a construction work permit.

There was however still room for improvement.

The number of fatalities had since decreased to 1.5 deaths per week, two per week, she said.

Oliphant was speaking at the presentation of the findings of the Tongaat Mall collapse of 19 November 2013.

Inspectors found several violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and construction regulations, including building without approval.

They found that ultimately a beam collapsed after support work was removed. This caused a slab to fall onto two workers, crushing them.

Twenty-nine workers sustained serious injuries including to the head, back, and lower bodies.

The findings would be given to the National Prosecuting Authority for a decision on whether to charge someone with a crime.

Oliphant believed that amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act would make the possibility of jail time a reality, instead of companies being fined and “buying” their way out of violations.

In the meantime, no sanctions would be imposed against the construction company, Gralio Precast, or any of its agents. This would depend on the NPA's decision.

Read more on:    mildred oliphant  |  parliament 2016

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