Three died in second KZN building collapse

The Department of Labour has issued a prohibition notice against the construction site in Jacobs, South of Durban, where three workers died and five others were seriously injured yesterday when the building collapsed at the corner of Chamberlain and Manchester roads in Jacobs.

The scene immediately brought back memories of the Tongaat Mall disaster in November 2013, where two workers were killed and 29 were injured.

Scene of the Jacobs building collapse – Courtesy of Rescue Care

The prohibition notice effectively stops any further construction work being undertaken at the site until the Department of Labour has completed its investigation.The prohibition notice may be lifted or amended once the inspection team concludes that the site is safe.

On 28 March 2018, workers were conducting their duties at the site when the building allegedly collapsed and the slabs fell on top the workers.

The name of the contractor has not been revealed to the media. The construction company had been building a double-storey structure that could have been used as a warehouse or an office. The side of the concrete structure had gone up, with only the roof left to be completed. It is alleged that a crane hoisting a four-ton beam, which it was slotting on to the roof, slammed into the building.

It is alleged that a person directing the crane driver did not have a clear line of communication, or did not give the correct hand signal, causing the beam to slam into the wall. This caused the side slabs of concrete to fall on either side. These walls were allegedly held up by small brackets, which were exposed when it collapsed.

Witnesses said they heard bangs, a crashing noise and then saw dust hanging over the site. Construction workers ran out into the road.

An articulated truck and trailer, not involved with the construction, was parked on the roadside. One portion of a concrete slab fell on to the the truck’s trailer, the road and the brick boundary wall of the property. The truck was badly damaged but the driver was unharmed.

The side slab fell on to the double-storey building next door, damaging the boundary wall, the stairwell and top section of the building. Two other slabs fell into the property, crushing the crane cabin in the fall. The bodies were found under the slabs near the crane cabin.

Three workers died while five were injured and rushed to hospital. Emergency response teams, including eThekwini Fire and SAPS Search and Rescue Unit using sniffer dogs worked tirelessly to remove the bodies of the deceased workers.

On 29 March 2018, the Department of Labour’s  inspection team held a meeting with all the stakehokders involved in the incident, including the client, principal contractor, sub-contractors, as well as SAPS, Metro Police and eThekwini Fire.

During the meeting, it emerged that one worker has been discharged from hospital; one is in Intensive Care Unit (ICU); and two others are in the general ward.

The Department of Labour is investigating the incident in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations. If anyone is found to have contravened the Act or its regulations, a recommendation to prosecute will be made to the National Prosecuting Authority.

The company that owns the building, which was going to be a store,  says it has appointed an independent investigator to work with KZN labour officials to probe the disaster.

Imperial Logistics says it understands that a single wall that formed part of the two storey structure came down while the men were working next to it.

This is the fourth structure collapse since the implementation of the new Construction regulations, which also introduced the registration of persons whose responsibility it is to prevent these collapses from occuring by the implementation of proper safety management.

Mayor Zandile Gumede said the cause of the collapse was not yet known but investigations would be conducted. “The sudden loss of lives of our people is indeed sad,” she said.

Sources: Department of Labour, Southlands Sun, Independent Online

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