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Safety in construction industry under the spotlight

File photo: African News Agency (ANA)

File photo: African News Agency (ANA)

Published Oct 16, 2019

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Cape Town – The Federated Employers Mutual Assurance Company has noted an increase in the number of  injuries on construction sites in the country. 

This was based on statistics produced by FEM which showed that last year there were a total of 8 384 accidents across the country, of which 65 were deaths, 981 disabilities without pensions and 15 were disabilities with pension payouts.

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A portion of these accidents were in the Western Cape, where FEM statistics showed that there was a total of 1 291 accidents reported, with nine deaths, 120 disabilities without pensions and three disabilities that required a pension payout.

On further investigation, it was found that more than 10% of these accidents in the Western Cape were as a result of construction workers falling from heights.

FEM recorded that 209 accidents of the total 1291 were as a result of falling from heights (FFH), which included falling from agents such ladders, platforms, skylights as well as manholes, trenches among others.

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The factors included risky construction activities, and risky site and environment conditions, FEM said.

FEM has identified FFH accidents as a leading cause of accidents nationally which has prompted the company to embark on a national roadshow to raise awareness on necessary precautions against these accidents.

The company’s annual “Safetember” campaign is aimed at saving lives and mitigating FFH accidents by encouraging construction employers to implement fall protection plans, the proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), legislative compliance as well as adequate training to help curb and ultimately eliminate these accidents.

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FEM said it has collaborated with institutes such as the Prefabricated Access Suppliers’ and Manufacturers’ Association (PASMA), Institute of Working at Heights (IWH), Gravity Training, South African Rope Access (SARA) Global and Honeywell to address the alarming reports and bring its safety message to the industry.

FEM said through Safetember, it hoped that many policyholders would have become conscientised, implement the necessary interventions and suffer fewer accidents which could result in them receiving merit rebates.

The company has cautioned that under-reporting of accidents or non-compliance with health and safety regulations was a reportable offence and carries harsh penalties.

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Earlier this year, Employment and Labour Department director of construction explosives and major hazards installations Phumi Maphaha said he wanted to see a jail term as a form of sanction to violators of  occupational health and safety in the construction sector.

Addressing a department occupational health and safety conference, at the Emperors Palace in Ekurhuleni, Maphaha said this would send a strong message to contractors who are cutting corners.

He said, according to 2016 statistics, there was an average of 12 500 construction sites in South Africa, involving some 1.4 million workers.  

Cape Times 

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