By Mohau Mphomela
The recent collapse of a section of the roof at the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital in Johannesburg has thrust health and safety issues within the construction industry into sharp focus.
Global stats reveal that construction contributes a significantly high number of injuries in the workplace. This is further borne out by research findings that indicate a serious lack of management support, especially among smaller operators and subcontractors and an inadequate or a lack of H&S training.
One of the cornerstones of the existence of Master Builders Association North, which has a more than century-old tradition of fostering unity and improving standards within the building and construction industry is continuous training on health and safety compliance.
Interventions by Master Builders Association
Our very existence is premised on how we look after the people who, under our supervision, enable us to build skyscrapers that kiss the horizons of major South African cities. A fundamental right of every worker is to be able to return home at the end of each working day; alive and healthy in the same physical condition that they started that working day. This is one of the key principles guiding the Association and the 600 contracting members it represents.
In terms of our code of conduct, members are required to manage their businesses in an equitable manner, ensuring that all work is of the highest quality and carried out efficiently to satisfy the building requirements of the client by complying with contractual obligations with integrity and objectivity. Master Builders aims to ensure that the building and construction industry plays a constructive role within the country’s economic growth and development goals.
One of the conditions of membership to the Master Builders Association is strict adherence to health and safety regulations. To ensure compliance among members, the association stages the annual Safety Competition to raise awareness of site safety across its membership base and the industry at large. The other critically important weapon in our arsenal to minimise work-related injuries on construction sites and in transit is continuous education.
If as players in the building and construction environment we don’t do enough to reduce the scourge of accidents, we run the risk of allowing the cancerous tumour to eventually devour our livelihood. It must, however, be conceded that sometimes incidents are products of nature, but studies have shown that continuous training and reskilling have a positive effect on reducing site-related accidents and injuries.
Workshops to educate members
It was with this in mind that Master Builders Association North hosted a half-day training workshop for members in Midrand recently. One of the keynote speakers was well-known former prosecutor Advocate Gerrie Nel, who led a discussion on the legal principle known as dolus eventualis, which is Latin and refers to whether a person foresees the possibility that their action will cause death but carries on regardless. “As an employer, you need to take steps to be responsible. If you see that something is amiss, it your duty to act,” said Advocate Nel, who added that dolus eventualis could be traced back to the 1953 case, State versus Mrs Horn.
“Willful blindness is when you walk away from a situation that you know could result in an injury. You can’t ignore things that you see,” said Advocate Nel.
What Advocate Nel and other industry experts urged Master Builders Association North members to do is to always prepare for any eventuality. If you are prepared, you are better geared to handle any catastrophe that may come your way.
According to a research document commissioned by the Construction Industry Development Board, global health and safety performance of the construction sector show that more than 60 000 fatal accidents occur annually. The same research shows that there is one accident every 10 minutes, which has led to the Master Builders Association doubling its efforts to accelerate training on health and safety to preserve life and limb and reduce the impact these unfortunate incidents on the national economy.
Close to 50% of injuries on construction sites are caused by falling objects, followed by motor vehicle accidents. Falling is at a significantly lower rate of 14% and the number of injuries recorded as a result of workers being struck currently stands at 10%.
Master Builders, which has been supporting contractors in South Africa for more than 100 years, promotes high standards and quality of delivery in construction, through support to our members; promote the viewpoints and interests of the industry by engaging government and relevant regulatory bodies on national policies that affect the industry; promote a positive occupational health and safety culture in the industry, to reduce and eliminate occupational injury, disease, loss and any damage to the environment; and create a sustainable building industry in South Africa by engaging related associations and relevant stakeholders on behalf of our members.
A team of specialists with industry specific experience mans the MBA North Construction Health and Safety (CHS) department. We have representation on Department of labour task teams, Industry and Professional councils. The team are able to provide practical value add support to address health and safety concerns which may occur in the workplace, offering you a comprehensive service for all your CHS needs.
- Mphomela is Master Builders Association North’s Executive Director