SA suffers 8000 construction incidents a year

Spending R2.5bn a year on health and safety compensation claims in the construction sector has forced the Labour Department to tighten its regulations.

The Department of Labour has found that the construction industry has a less than 50% rate of compliance to health and safety legislative requirements, reported The New Age.

More than six fatalities a month

Federal Employers Mutual Assurance Company (FEM) spokesperson Gys McIntosh said: “There are between 8000 and 9000 accidents every year and between 70 and 90 fatalities.”

Department of Labour chief director: Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), Tibor Szana said the construction industry has been beset with incidents of fatalities for the past 15 years.

Construction incidents keep on coming

“The level of construction incidents seemed to be repeating themselves over and over again,” Szana said.

The construction sector is surpassed by iron and steel sector in terms of large volumes of claims lodged with the Compensation Fund.

Szana asked why the construction industry seemed to be failing to reverse the high levels of fatalities.

Some of the recent incidents include the collapse of the Tongaat Mall that left two dead and 29 workers injured and the collapse of a house in Meyersdal that led to the death of seven workers and the hospitalisation of seven others.

Szana expressed safety concerns when he addressed the department’s construction sector seminar at Emperor’s Palace in Ekurhuleni recently.

Construction inspections & enforcement must improve

The seminar was preceded by a comprehensive and specialised training session targeted at departmental provincial chief inspectors, specialist inspectors, and principal inspectors on the elements of administering of the new Construction Regulation 2014 and the adjudicating of construction permits.

The Construction Work Permit of the Construction Regulation 2014 comes into effect on August 7, and will require registration of health and safety professionals in the construction industry. “Today marks the collaborative effort with the construction industry.

The challenge is to step up inspection and enforcements,” Szana said. He said going forward the department wanted to spend less time with employers.


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4 thoughts on “SA suffers 8000 construction incidents a year

  1. There is poor enforcement of current safety legislation, that is, just sitting in a site office and ticking boxes. That is a miniscule part of enforcement. Enacting additional legislation will not solve the problem.

    ==== Editor notes; What the newspapers loosely label ‘tightening regulations’, means increasing enforcement of existing laws.
    If the DOL enforced health and safety competence, already in law since 2003, there would be no need for enforcing registration. As they choose to enforce registration, that will soon replace competence. Just another tickbox, based on tickboxes and multiple choice exams set by contractors hired by boards of volunteers. -Edmond Furter

    1. Thanks Edmond for your response. That is exactly my point, there is little or no enforcement of current legislation, of what use is enacting more legislation. If the Construction Regulation was followed, the number of injuries /fatalities will drop. Christelle van Jaarsveld (see her comment) is correct, organisations are not even complying with safety laws, which is the absolute minimum.
      We also have inspectors (DoL) who need education on safety in the workplace. Persons who think that legislating a registration process for safety officers will reduce accidents, have their heads screwed on the wrong end of their body.

      ==== Editor notes; Three thousand candidates are paying their way up the designations. The acronym for not yet competent, NYC, is every registrar’s favourite stamp. Registration is not designed to reduce incidents.

  2. Coming from a very strict Mine Health and Safety Act environment, to the OHS Act environment, especially in private and construction, it is most concerning what the level of knowledge are w.r.t. health and safety. Few to none safety management systems are implemented, and most of these companies’ management do not enforce what is required by law.
    I stood in awe to what is allowed in the workforce. I do not agree that safety professionals in the construction industry should carry all the legal liability should something happen on site, as they are not the technical experts, and can only do what their management allow them to do, with little or no assistance.
    DOL should more often visit employers and do more inspections on site, comparing what is said and what is done in the actual work environment. -Christelle van Jaarsveld

  3. R2.5bn should not force the DoL to respond – fatalities, and repeat incidents, should be driving effective change in the construction industry.
    This should be a call of all business as well as safety advisory groups, to ensure that we reverse the high level of fatalities and incidents in the construction industry.
    We should also depend on the DoL for enforcement and ensure that we in the industry engage our workers on the improvement cycle.
    Areas for improvemnt include:
    – Management leadership, commitment and accountabilty
    – Risk assessment and management
    – Personnel and Training
    – Incident investigation and analysis
    – Contractor (3rd party services).
    The safety professional /advisor supports the process – engage, communicate, advise.

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