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Two safety lessons you can learn from the Tongaat mall collapse inquiry

by , 13 February 2014
A commission of inquiry into the collapse of a mall in Tongaat is underway. The commission started on Monday and crucial safety lessons are starting to emerge. Read on to find out what they are so you can ensure the same thing doesn't happen in your workplace.

In November last year, we reported about the Tongaat disaster that killed two people and injured 29 people.

Shortly after the accident, the Department of Labour (DoL) announced that there would be an inquiry.

The DoL has delivered on that promise and the inquiry is now underway. Ironically, its commencement also coincided with the announcement of the new Construction Regulations on Monday.

Here are already two important things that have come out of the inquiry.


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What you can learn about safety from the Tongaat mall inquiry

Sheq Africa reports that a foreman at the Tongaat mall collapse site testified that the 'small pillars' of inadequate construction column support had caved in.

'Pillay also testified that he had raised concerns about lift shafts and the sagging columns with the engineer of the project and he was assured after an assessment that everything was in order.'

What can you learn from this?

Safety lesson #1: Pillay's testimony shows the importance of investigating incidents at work. He told the inquiry that a slab of concrete sagged in the days leading up to a collapse. If this had been investigated properly, perhaps the disaster could have been avoided.

After all, as we remind you here: 'If you don't investigate incidents and implement corrective and preventive action you're at risk of more severe incidents occurring, including fatalities.'

Another important point that came out of the inquiry is that Pillay, who was hired to supervise the project, wasn't qualified.

According to ECR, the commission heard that Pillay and Preshalen Gounder, another employee of Gralio Precast have several years of experience but no formal training or qualifications.

Don't make the same mistake in your company.

Safety lesson #2: The Occupational Health and Safety Act talks about appointing a competent person.

And as you know, construction work requires supervision. You must ensure that this person is qualified to oversee your construction site.

Yesterday we reported that new Construction Regulations now require all health and safety practitioners in the construction industry to register with the South African Council for the Project and Construction Management Professions (SACPCMP).

So it's a good idea for you to do background checks to ensure the person you're hiring on your construction site is qualified and is registered with the relevant authority.

We'll keep following the Tongaat commission of inquiry very closely and pick out the important safety lessons for you.

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