Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - The Gauteng provincial government on Friday announced the establishment of a high-level provincial steering committee to centralise the safety function for all buildings accommodating government employees. 

The Occupational Health and Safety Steering Committee (OHSSC) will be chaired by the MEC of the Department of Infrastructure Development (DID), Jacob Mamabolo, and will be constituted of heads of department (HOD’s).

This comes after the 23-storey Bank of Lisbon building, which houses the department of health, human settlements and cooperative governance in Joburg inner city, caught fire on Wednesday morning. The ferocious fire that left three firefighters dead was extinguished on Thursday night. 

The deceased firefighters have been named as Simphiwe Moropane, 28, Mduduzi Ndlovu, 40, and Kathutshelo Muedi, 37. As many as 13 officials from the provincial department of health were hospitalised and treated for smoke inhalation. They have since been discharged. 

Mamabolo admitted on Wednesday that the building that caught alight was among eight owned by the government in the city which were only 21 percent compliant in contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.  

In a statement, the provincial government said that the establishment of the committee was in line with the Occupational Health and Safety Act which places safety as a key responsibility of all the accounting officers (HOD’s) as employers.

The immediate task of the committee was to oversee the evacuation of officials from non-compliant buildings and to relocate them to suitable buildings.

Mamabolo said Gauteng government would fast-track its processes to secure safe accommodation for all the 1 115 staff members who were safely evacuated but have since been displaced by the fire at the Bank of Lisbon building. 

He said the relocation of employees will be a short-term measure and that those departments will, in future, be accommodated within the Kopanong precinct - a R16 billion inner-city rejuvenation programme – which is awaiting Treasury approval. 

The Kopanong precinct will also inject investment into all government-owned government buildings through a Public-Private Partnership.

African News Agency/ANA