Denel explosion: Health and safety procedures at plant in spotlight

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Rheinmetall Denel Munition in Cape Town.
Rheinmetall Denel Munition in Cape Town.
Jonathan Lestrade
  • The inquiry into the 2018 explosion at the Rheinmetall Denel Munition plant in Somerset West has heard that red armbands were given to the five of the victims, to indicate they were trainees.
  • Five witnesses are expected to testify before the inquiry on Tuesday. 
  • The inquiry heard staff members receive training every year.

Health and safety procedures at Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) have been called into question during the second day of the public inquiry into the 2018 explosion that rocked the plant in Macassar near Somerset West.

The inquiry heard staff members had received training every year in the form of tests. 

Five witnesses were set to take the stand and testify before the inquiry on Tuesday. 

The first witness, Cameron Mitchell, told the inquiry that there were different inductions for different facilities.

"If one person goes through training, they cannot work on the material just yet. During the process, you move around with a supervisor.”

READ | Denel explosion: First witness takes stand as public inquiry into blast that killed 8 kicks off

Mcebisi Ngqatu, who is the training officer at RDM, told the inquiry there were strict protocols put in place for workers.

“No one can work on material when they are on training. When visitors visit the plant, we explain the safety measures to them. If any staff members have to move to another facility, they will have to do another test.”

He said they do refresher training every year.

“Especially if there is a modification in the plant then we conduct refresher training,” he added.

Indicated

The inquiry heard that red armbands had been given to five of the victims, which indicated that they were still trainees.

The legal representative for some of the families, Winston Erasmus, questioned why these trainees were allowed to work with explosives.

Ngqatu responded that it was company procedure, and redirected the question for management to answer. Family members of the deceased echoed and agreed with Erasmus’ line of questioning.

ALSO READ | 'It's not about the money...we want justice' - families of Denel blast

Another witness, Gavin Wells, told the inquiry that they had been trained how to handle explosives.

"You cannot just move things around. You must have two people to help, because it's so heavy. Metal repellents weigh 40kg, and you can’t drag it on the floor because the friction of the ground can cause an explosion."

Inquiry chairperson Mphumzi Dyulete asked Wells whether any inspections had been carried out by management, to which Wells replied "no". 

The wife of supervisor Nico Samuels, who died in the blast, believes that her husband is being used as a scapegoat. 

Lawrencia Samuels told News24 this was because Nico had worked for RDM for so long.

"They are trying to pin the blame on him because he has been there long, and he always took his work seriously. Before the incident, he told me he was being pressured to work overtime at N16 to fix a valve," she said.

N16 is the facility where the incident took place.

The inquiry has so far heard that Nico Samuels had used his private vehicle to transport explosives and that a lighter was found in his vehicle. 

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