Posted on: October 18, 2010 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 0

An SA Health and Safety Committee is provided for in draft Construction Regulations. SHEQafrica.com interviews DOL chief inspector Thobile Lamati.

SHEQafrica.com editor SHEQafrica; Regarding the committee provided for in the Construction Regulations amendment draft, section 29, would this committee be limited to a construction H&S technical committee?

DOL CI; This would be a construction technical committee (TC).

SHEQafrica.com; Should there be a general H&S technical committee, for all industries, excluding mining?

DOL CI; There should not necessarily be a general TC, but that depends on what we seek to achieve, with what we want to put in place. There could be specialists in specific sectors. This is not unique to South Africa.

SHEQafrica.com; Does the draft Construction Reg 29 provision harmonise with sec 27 of the OHS Act?

COL CI; The draft amendment Regs absolutely harmonise with the Act. Provision for a construction safety technical committee would ensure that myself as Chief Inspector, and the labour inspectorate, are constantly advised by industry experts regarding best practice, in line with the Minister’s objective to provide decent, healthy and safe work, as stated by the Minister and Director General.

H&S expertise

SHEQafrica.com; Is technical expertise, including design and engineering expertise, ensured in the draft?

DOL CI; Expertise is ensured. The technical committee would be made up of these persons;
Chairperson
DOL employees designated by DG (2)
Department of Public Works (2)
Built Environmental Council
Construction Industry Development Board
Higher Education in construction, designated by DHE DG
SA Property Owners Association
Construction civils employer organisation
Construction building organisation
Construction employee unions (2)
Construction consultants
Specialists co-opted with authorisation of chief inspector.

SHEQafrica.com; How would the draft Reg 29 technical committee body be funded? Are wide ranging powers like inspection appropriate to a semi private body?

DOL CI; The TC would be constituted, funded and managed by DOL. The TC would not be a semi private body, but a tripartite body, to promote coregulation in construction. Its powers would be like similar bodies in OHS legislation.

SHEQafrica.com; Is the drat Reg 29 technical committee modelled on the UK HSE, the USA CSB, or the Safety in Mining Research Advisory Council, SIMRAC?

DOL CI; The H&S TC is not modelled on any of these bodies. The DOL technical committee would be constituted within the SA construction sector.

Construction enforcement

SHEQarica.com; Do inspectors in different regions follow standardised formats and procedures?

DOL CI; Generally, inspectors do follow standardised formats and procedures. We have started a process towards ensuring a standard way in which inspectors operate. Like any good organisation seeking to improve its service, we are daily working towards that goal, and have taken various initiatives to ensure that inspectors in all regions are working more or less the same.

However, it should be noted that it is a pipe dream for any organisation to think that all its employees would work in the same manner, since every organisation has workers with varying years of experience and varying degrees of competence.

Construction equipment

SHEQafrica.com; If suppliers of temporary work equipment were also the relevant equipment designers, would that be a conflict of interest?

DOL CI; There is no conflict of interest in one source for equipment design and supply. Suppliers know their own equipment. It is clear to us that suppliers can be better designers where they possess the required competence.

Safety files

SHEQafrica.com; Do safety files tie up construction OHS practitioners in site offices, with files rarely used? How could this construction industry gripe be resolved?

DOL CI; Safety files should not necessarily tie up safety practitioners. As far as we are concerned, administrative issues should be dealt with during conceptualisation phase of any project. Putting a safety file together should be done before any work could commence. The updating of it could be done during construction phase. We don’t understand what the fuss is about.

Construction audit frequency

SHEQafrica.com; Is the proposed audit frequency of 14 days justified? Are two weeks long enough to track trends and changes in risk profiles? Does it harmonise with Reg 7(7)(c), requiring review at 30 days?

DOL CI; A frequency of 14 days was chosen, but who could tell, this would depend on the types of risk during phases at construction sites. CR 4(1)(o) refers to 14 days, periodic H&S audits between Client and Principal Contractor, while CR 7(1)(7)(c) refers to relevant risk assessment to be reviewed at intervals not exceeding one month, thus a clear distinction.

Medical fitness

SHEQafrica.com; About medical fitness in Annexure 2, would a validity period apply? Should this rather be described in a separate regulation? Are queries from the OH profession resolved? Whose responsibility would it be to update? Would a central database reduce costs, and reduce X-ray exposure frequency? Should professional bodies, or the state, keep a database?

DOL CI; A validity period would have to apply. Queries received are attended to as far as humanly possible within reasonable time frames. Exact cost, if centralised, would still have to be determined. Our preference is that a state body should administer employee records.

Construction Agents

SHEQafrica.com; Agent duties, under Client duties in Reg 4(1), 4(4), 4(5), are mainly safety management functions. Should Agents, or Agent appointees, be named Clients, or Safety Practitioners?

DOL CI; Agents are appointed by Clients in terms of CR 4(4) of the draft. Agents are ‘any competent person who acts as a representative for a Client in managing overall construction work for that client.’ Agents could not be named Clients, since they could not appoint themselves, nor Safety Practitioner, since the work of Agents is not limited to H&S, but overall construction.

PHOTO; DOL Chief Inspector, Thobile Lamati.

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