The Department of Employment and Labour held its first OHS Conference which ended 26 July 2019. During the conference, the Director of Construction, Explosives and Major Hazards Installations (MHI), Phumi Maphaha says he wants to see a jail term as a form of sanction to violators of occupational health and safety (OHS) in the construction sector as it would send a strong message to contractors who are cutting corners.
He concluded that “most of incidents that occur could have been prevented in the boardroom” and warned that if a structure collapses the constructor was usually be the first person to blame, emphasising that, “if a structure collapses there is someone to blame”.
In 2012 after the Tonghati Mall Collapse fiasco, the media forced the DOL’s hand and it introduced the Construction Regulations 2014. With it came the infamous registration regime of the SACPCMP, who led the public to believe the blame lies with the “safety practitioners”. Since the introduction of this scheme, and following a series of “exemptions” due to incapacity of he SACPCMP, a number of other structures and buildings collapsed, including the Greyston Drive Pedestrian Bridge.
The OHS Fraternity were pretty much divided about the registration scheme with the most experienced consultants pulling out of the country, the profession or the construction industry. Others believed it to be the miracle cure for the “fly-by-night” syndrome and proposed the “Safety File Syndrome” as solution.
It has now been 5 years since the inception of the Construction Regulations. Has the reality finally set in at the Department?
According to 2016 statistics there was an average of 12 500 construction sites in South Africa, involving some 1,4 million workers. The industry was responsible for a substantial number of fatalities, Maphaha reported.
He said there was a need to go back to a drawing board and do things the right way. He said it was imperative that at conception stages of construction, there was proper health and safety practitioners to discuss issues.
Why go back to a drawing board if the right way was proposed 5 years ago?
Are the current SACPCMP construction agents not “proper” practitioners, but only registered ones?