Let's play "protect the workers"

2014-08-18 22:05

The media is full of it once again. Seven dead, and not because of some virus. A house collapsed!!

A year ago, a slab of a mall under construction in Tongaat collapsed and an investigation is still ongoing. A few months later, a floor of a fishing factory in Port Elizabeth gave way under the load of the people on it. In June this year a building in Soweto collapsed.

And another investigation into the Meyerton incident is soon to hit the news!


Well, the South African Council for Project and Construction Management Professions will tell you it is because of incompetence. The Dept of Labour will tell you it is because of incompetence. And all the professional associations involved in workplace safety will tell you it is incompetence.

And so it is...it must be!

But these Health & Safety Officers that is supposedly trained to protect life and limb, are not that incompetent. It is just that the construction industry has changed them into paper-pushers. All they have to do is check that you have all the paperwork in a file, and off you go - you can build whatever rubbish your heart desire, regardless if it will fall down before it is even occupied.

Besides, what else would you expect of a person who studied for a week or two, gain 4 years experience in checking documents and earns more than most in SA? Salaries between R10 000 and R25 000 is nothing out of the ordinary. They protect companies from being blamed for accidents such as the one we all read about right now. And then they just quit or run away - blameless!


Are you building something right now? And you have an architect and civil engineer and all the other highly qualified people to help you. What about your safety officer? No, not the one that opens the gate, the other one. The one that you pay as little as possible to check all your contractors have files. You know, those files that save lives. The ones with the Tax certificate, the list of  25 letters signed by the only two people on site, and that mountains of copies of papers nobody even know its in the file.

Perhaps you should think of the people on site. The ones that cannot read, the ones that works their butts off so you can have your skyscraper. The ones that hangs off the edges of steel beams installing window panes 30 storeys above ground. The fearless ones! The soon to be dead ones. Perhaps it is time you stop and smell the coffee.

People die on an almost daily basis, just because some companies are so caught up in the "cover your arse" game, they forget what workplace safety and health protection is all about. It is not about preventing prosecution (Slim chance) or civil claims or insurance refusing to pay claims for damages. It is about making sure nobody gets hurt or ill. It is about making the workplace the safest place for most people living in areas where rape, murder and stabbings are part of dinner. It is about building things that will outlast the weight of a stiff South-eastern wind. Or has job-pride also faded with education?


Well, that's a phrase I can cash in on. But if you cannot stand for decent working conditions, you should fall or at least be under whatever falls. Why should innocent people die, just because "cutting corners" is a construction term?

And if you read this and think it is not aimed at you, then well done. But...an alcoholic does not have a drinking problem.

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2010-11-21 18:15

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