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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18 thoughts on “Slab collapses are symptoms of construction disease

  1. Hi Rudy, Excellent thought provoking article. My apologies that the Institute of Municipal Engineering did not respond to your correspondence. I have had no end of communication problems with ‘IMESA’ much to my embarrassment, so much so that I have removed myself from their National Council, effective at the end of my current term.

    Keep up the good work.

    Mike Botha

  2. I agree with the article writer. The issue of slab collapses and building failures can not be addressed by the so called SACPCMP registration of Construction Safety Practitioners. It should be noted that the majority of safety practitioners are not engineers and can not influence design and the engineering details involved during construction. Applying the principle of root cause analysis these building failures can be traced back to design and engineering failures which is beyond the scope of work of the Safety Practitioner. This really leaves us wondering on the competence of the SACPCMP when they say the so called registration will address this problem. There is need to revise the 2014 Construction Regulations and incorporate the role of competent engineers within the regulations if we are really to address these building failures. Surely how can someone with SAMTRAC, NDSM of BTech Safety Management be expected to influence engineering design of a structure?

    1. I totally second these two gentleman. Let us hope that a revision of the new CR are on the cards.
      Specifically to include competent engineers.

  3. The article is spot on, health and safety persons are not responsible for construction design and management failures. As for the advert for Maritz’s latest scheme “PRIS”, what a load of nonsense. Marshall Maritz can stand on his head and sing God Safe the Queen he will not weed out incompetence in the construction sector by introducing an incompetence register.

  4. Yes Craig, I know, but what will? Professional Registration?
    Do you think government, with their strategic objectives and transformation, will stop people (who we know do not have the competencies needed) from being registered?
    The only professions where this is largely successful is where the profession itself, determines the minimum entry requirements. What is the minimum entry requirement for a H&S practitioner? Grade 12 and NQF level 5? Which is what exactly?
    We do not have that anymore in H&S. It went up in smoke.
    When I started at age 24 as inspector with the DOL (then Dept of Manpower), a minimum T4 (National Higher) diploma was required to be an inspector. Should H&S officers not be “better” equipped than the inspectors in order to advise their employers? Where is that now; 28 years of transformation later?
    Or are we moving back 28 years with the new dispensation of professionalisation?

    1. Valid comment Rudy.
      What we have come down to is a Competent Professional Body and an Incompetent register to be published or at least controlled by some institute / government body or other. (Danny our competent exploiter of Files by IT will definitely comment on this).
      We can shout and moan all we like about our 28 years of transformation, our dropping of standards etc, but the fact is “its the lot that we have got”.
      We are all aware as H&S Practitioners the “blame game” is something that in South Africa is common practice, but until we move on and drive the changes – through what ever means, we will not achieve anything. How many H&S People have tried to make a difference,

      So lets get back to the Question for all:
      Don’t be afraid all, many have had lots to say about this, I challenge you all to come out and actually name them, from either perspective, Danny, Peter etc lets see your list


    2. Rudy just a correction, the junior Safety Officer with grade 12 and NQF level 5 course is not the professionals in question. There is a place for these lower level H&S employees, they do the donkey work, run around on site telling workers to wear their PPE. It is not these guys that will be sitting with the designer to discuss the method of sequence and base line risk assessments for a project, it will be registered Pr. CH Agents, people like yourself with proper qualifications and experience. So to answer your question, professional registration will identify those persons that are competent to act as the Client’s H&S Agent (you) and exclude the grade 12 guy with a two week course.

      1. Shane, I think someone made the comment that you do not understand the whole “incompetence register” issue. I agree. It is not about “my list” and “your list” and Danny and Peter’s lists of people “WE” think is incompetent.
        Do you think ITC sucks names out of the air to tell the banks who to lend money to and who not?
        But let’s leave it at that. I guess I can count on SAIOSH to remain silent.

      2. “exclude the grade 12 guy with a two week course”.
        And where do they go, currently earning a decent living as Client Agents? Manufacturing? FMCG? Mining? Then we start the whole process all over with another statutory body and 30 000 accidents later.

      3. Rudy one thing is for sure you are certainly an entrepreneur of note and tried just about everything: DASH, DASHSA, IOCCSA, NIOCCSA (2 versions), ABOSH, NABOSH and now PRIS.

      4. And I often ask myself, why I waste my time trying to change the perception of H&S amongst the professionals, the contractors and the public.

      5. Look Craig don’t knock entrepeneurship…..but it must be a viable business, so I agree, I am also confused by all these ventures that don’t seem to go anywhere, and was very very sceptical of where NIOCCSA was or is heading.

        I always ask – what is in it for them? Are they being truly altruistic?

        Maybe we are klapping all these okes hard just for trying to improve H&S in the workplace – the rays of sunshine they might be – maybe like me they are reduced to living in a caravan due to their selfless pursuit of improving H&S standards in the workplace. Maybe they have to dip into their own pockets to pay for the certificates and the stationary and the teas a biscuits at the monthly members meeting. Or not.

        Maybe for this bunch to be transparent they should make their accounts public – who will be the first to do that? How can there is not be a conflict of interest when you is a consultant generating lots of fees and then trying regulate other consultants, perhaps making a bit of money on the side I does not know. Somefing aren’t very lekker wif dis fing.

      6. “who will be the first to do that?”
        Let the person who made any payment for membership to NIOCCSA come forward. It was free since we started.
        We have introduced a paid service for Accreditation, and let them speak up now, how much they paid.

      7. Right Craig
        SACPCMP registered agent. Profession: Legal
        IOSH and IRMSA registered.
        Lots of overseas qualifications.
        tells the public it is a PTY LTD.
        The company is registered as a CC.
        Forces contractors to engage them on the same site as client’s.
        That is how the SACPCMP is preventing “incompetent people” to work.

      8. Danny Boy what you describe is not an incompetent person, it is a fraudster. You should know, as an IT nerd you can hack someone’s account and steal all their money, that does not make you incompetent it in fact it confirms your competence. The IoITG (Institute of IT Geeks) will declare you the most competent of them all and make you an honorary member.

  5. Ag Peter Sheets – the knives are out for Rudy? I suppose after you were unceremoniously removed from your position as NIOCCSA poster boy you have no reason to be nice. Lekker.

  6. This process is like crazy and a waste of money, I even doubt if this is going to last. By August next year they are probably gonna appoint another body. We have spent time, money, and doing a diploma and worked for years and now we have to pay so much MONEY just to be registered in such a long process.
    One must come with the solution to end this. Government must just recognise a formal qualification, degree or Diploma from the university, and STOP this. Students should be registered by their institution direct to government upon completion of their qualification.
    We are tired of this, many short courses one after another, one company wants SAMTRAC, other wants NEbosh, other wants incident investigation, and the list is endless. How much money are we gonna spend on this course and then spend on this so-called professional SACPCMP registration.

  7. We have to see health and safety functions in the right perspective. Building involves various phases of activity such as architectural design, engineering design, and only then construction.

    Structural integrity of a building or components thereof are the responsibility of specifically the engineering designer, in particular structural engineers amongst others (commonly acting as consultants) .

    HS practitioners eg the OHS agent and the H officer have totally different functions to that of the designer and cannot be expected to get involved in structural engineering detail.

    Having said that, however, the OHS agent in particular has a management safety control function to ensure that the client and designers (structural, electrical, plumbing, ventilation etc.) follow the OHS Act i.e. amongst others the building regulation protocol which requires municipal approval.

    In other words when a client using an OHS agent allows a building of whatever nature to be constructed without having prior municipal building approval of all plans (inter-alia designer written approval and co-responsibility for the adequacy thereof), it would be the responsibility of the OHS agent to stop all work or if interfered with by the client, report the shortcomings to the DOL and get the work stopped that way.

    We must not put responsibilities on HS practitioners where it does not belong and give that industry a bad name when in fact the shortcomings in the construction industry lies elsewhere.

    Where on site problems are created causing building collapse because of incompetent appointments or the lack thereof e.g. no temporary works designer when there should have been one and sections collapse because of poor design in that area, then one could put the blame on the HS agent for lack of construction regulation compliance, but not structural incompetence on the part of the agent for this does not fall within his scope of work.

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