Three firefighters have lost their lives following a fire at the departments of Health and Human Settlements building in the Joburg CBD. Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA)
Cape Town - After a deadly fire that killed three firemen in Joburg, questions are being asked about the safety of government buildings in Cape Town's CBD.

“There is a strong possibility that the government buildings in Cape Town are not compliant with health and safety standards. We have been inundated with queries from workers who are fearful to go to work because it’s unsafe,” said Malvern de Bruyn, provincial Cosatu secretary.

De Bruyn said the trade union federation is calling for an independent survey to be conducted on these government buildings.

“I don’t feel that the City is concerned about this issue, that is why we are calling for an urgent investigation and a survey to be conducted so that we can establish whether our members are safe,” De Bruyn said. Since he’s been in the position as the provincial secretary he has received many queries from concerned workers.

“Many complaints are from workers and the worst part about this is that no one seems to care and we are sitting on a ticking time bomb of something happening here in Cape Town as well,” De Bruyn said.

According to the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) almost 80% of government buildings in the Western Cape are not conducive to work in. These buildings range from Sassa offices in Khayelitsha, Eerste River and the Department of Education building in Cape Town CBD.

“We have been confronting this issue for a long time and at the moment we are just waiting for another accident to happen like what happened in Johannesburg,” said Eric Kweleta, provincial secretary of Nehawu.

Last week a fire engulfed a 24-storey building which houses three Gauteng provincial departments in the Joburg CBD, killing three firefighters. Since the fire started reports surfaced that the building was just 21% compliant with occupational health and safety standards, against the norm of 85%.

“What we’ve always as Nehawu striven to do is make these buildings conducive. We have been raising these issues for years; for example the Sassa office in Khayelitsha is one of the busiest offices in Cape Town but it is such a huge health and safety hazard to the staff that we had to move them to the community hall instead. But the problem we are now sitting with is that it’s unsafe.”

Parliament’s portfolio committee on labour chairperson Lemias Mashile has called on employers to take steps that ensure compliance with health and safety standards. “The two tragic incidents in Cape Town (Denel explosion) and Johannesburg have highlighted the urgent need for steps to review safety measures within work environments to safeguard workers.

The City’s mayoral committee member for transport and urban development Brett Herron said: “We are not aware of any buildings that are non-compliant but we are aware of buildings which are neglected which pose a threat and a cause for concern.”

Herron said the City relies mainly on residents to report hazardous buildings to them. “There are just too many buildings within the City for us to keep constant checks on.”


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