Half a million construction workers could be at risk - Labour Minister
About 500 000 workers are risking their lives on construction sites that do not comply with health and safety laws, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said on Tuesday. As much as 40% of the industry did not comply with these laws, which translated to ±5 000 construction sites across the country.
The risks came from issues like lack of compliance with health and safety regulations to “deliberate ignorance”. The situation had become slightly better since construction regulations were introduced in 2014. These made it a requirement to use a construction health and safety agent and get a construction work permit.
There was however still room for improvement. Oliphant was speaking at the presentation of the findings of the Tongaat Mall collapse of 19 November 2013.Inspectors found several violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and construction regulations, including building without approval.
They found that a beam collapsed after support work was removed, causing a slab to fall onto two workers, crushing them and seriously injuring 29 others. The findings would be given to the National Prosecuting Authority for a decision on whether to charge someone with a crime.
Oliphant believed that amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act would make the possibility of jail time a reality, instead of companies being fined and “buying” their way out of violations.