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Slab collapses are symptoms of construction disease

The DOL, SACPCMP and construction professions could prevent slab collapses by policing Clients or Developers via the Deed of Sale, said consultants.

Following the Meyersdal collapse on 18 August 2014, consultant Rudy Maritz commented that the buyer or owner is often the Client, as in plot-and-plan deals. Where the deed of sale sets the date of transfer on completion of the house, the Developer is the Client.

Construction Regulations 3 and 5 are not applicable where the construction work carried out is in relation to a single storey dwelling for a client who intends to reside there on completion.

The law is quite clear that the owner (Client) has to appoint a competent person as agent from 8 August 2014. The duties of the owner include regulation 5, except 5(7)(b).

On the issue of regulation of competence, the SACPCMP’s role as custodian of construction health and safety only starts in August 2015, following the postponement of registration by the DOL.

They seem not to understand the role of construction health and safety officers, nor the regulations that they and their supporters helped to draft, that now involve them in health and safety.

HS people are typically not involved in design, engineering, casting, assessment of concrete strength, ascertainment of work executed according to the approved (or absent) building plan. It is the function of the newly defined Health and Safety Agent, who is usually the engineer.

According to the SACPCMP IDOW Rules, the CHS officer is not allowed to practice in the first three phases of the project; Initiation, Concept, and Design development. Even if the registration was implemented as promulgated, and not delayed until 2015, the CHS officer has no influence, input or duties in these phases.

Even registered CHS Officers would typically not be able to prevent slab collapses.

The Construction Regulations Amendment 2014 was drafted via a very elusive ‘public’ consultation process involving SACPCMP, DOL, ACOHS, QCTO, DPW, CIDB, SA IOSH /Saiosh, IOSM /OSHAP, ACHASM, Master Builders (SA, North, and Free State), NMMU, SAFCEC, NUM, and ComPrac Holdings. Some of these organisations share agendas and even delegates.

The DOL denied several requests from other organisations and persons to see the draft, following a year or two after the highly disputed initial draft.

The focus of the legislation, scope of practice, registration, and requirements, were determined by people who depend on membership fees and registration fees. Yet the majority of health and safety practitioners do not support any of these bodies, and some openly criticise the quality of legislation and enforcement.

What if health and safety practitioners decide not to register? The professional registration debacle resembles e-tolling of urban roads.

DOL should empower municipal building inspectors and engineers
Previous attempts to engage the Institute of Municipal Engineering of South Africa, IMESA, did not draw any response. As a consulting body we are investigating the need for local authorities to ensure compliance with national building regulations and the Construction Regulations.

Better co-operation between municipalities and the Department of Labour is also needed, as co-operative enforcement has proven successful with the introduction of local law enforcement in various metropoles; likewise provincial governments in the enforcement of NEMA environmental requirements.

Slab collapses would probably continue, despite promises made by the DOL and SACPCMP after the Tongaat Mall collapse that the new regulations and registration would put a stop to it.

Agents and consultants could be liable
NIOCCSA had previously informed our Accredited Professionals about the need for indemnity insurance, but few seem to take heed. Where a consultant acts as Agent for a Client, they can be held jointly liable for their client’s negligent conduct. Working without approved building plans is just one example where this would apply.

For this reason we have launched the Professional Risk Information System, with online access to information on professionals not meeting minimum professional requirements. Design and construction professional competence and track records are crucial to surviving the many cheaper alternatives.

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