The initial SA Construction Regulations amendment procedure was flawed, requiring a rerun in 2010, public comment in 2011, and possible promulgation in 2012. Now you can read about the new set of draft Construction Regulations out in 2013.
In the comment period in 2011, an unprecedented volume of public comment to the Department of Labour (DOL), including several challenges to the quality, consistency and practicality of the amendments, delayed promulgation.
A Construction Regulations amendment draft Technical Committee (TC) was appointed by the Minister of Labour’s Advisory Council (ACOHS) to review comments in 2011, as reported on SHEQafrica.com last year.
Changes made by the DOL ACHOHS construction committee were submitted to the DOL legal and language section in late 2011. DOL chief inspector Thobile Lamati said the draft Amended Construction Regulations would be tabled at the next ACOHS meeting [in 20120] to be ratified, after which it could be promulgated during 2012.
Meanwhile, DOL is planning an overhaul of the OHS Act and all of its regulations, so presumably the Construction Regulations amendment of 2012 would align with the forthcoming OHS Act of 2013.
Construction safety files issues
The definition of a medical certificate of fitness had been left blank in the 2011 attempt to amend the Construction Regulations. The issue of who may perform medical examinations, and who may sign off medical certificates, was debated, while occupational health practitioners represented by SAIOH, and occupational medical practitioners represented by SASOM, were working towards a solution.
Small and medium construction companies face particular health and safety management and compliance challenges, while leading contractors complain that their sheq officials are forced to spend most of their time in compiling files for the benefit of inspectors, instead of assisting line managers in risk management.
Construction permits to work are required for work longer than 30 days, or involving more than 300 person days. Permits and safety specification are not required for building domestic houses to be occupied by the client after completion
A health and safety management system for small and medium construction companies is being piloted by the CIDB in certain areas, starting with ‘higher grade’ contractors.
Construction design issues
Leading construction safety academic, Prof John Smallwood, told two conferences last year that ‘little notice is taken of OHS when buildings and structures are designed, leading to many accidents’.
He also warned that many construction designs do not take into consideration future maintenance of buildings and potential OHS issues relating to maintenance.
Many toxic or dangerous products used in construction could be substituted at the design stage to remove potential hazards and risks from site. Poor ergonomics practices also prevail in construction.
The Construction Regulations require designers to become more aware of OHS when designing buildings, and OHS specialists should be consulted during the design phase.
OHS specifications by client agents are often ‘non specific reams of paper which are a re-gurgitation of the OHS Act and Regulations, which in essence tell prospective contractors nothing about the actual project and the potential hazards and risks on the project’, said Prof Smallwood.
The academic had produced a document and presented workshops on what should be in a construction safety plan. Lack of good information is also directly linked to incompetence of many agents acting on behalf of construction clients.
Construction safety registration issues
Construction safety researcher and NMMU lecturer academic Prof Smallwood also noted the lack of a registration process for construction safety and sheq practitioners. This is being remedied by SACPCMP [a statutory body], who will in the future be the body with which construction OHS practitioners must be registered, he said in 2011.
The process of determining construction safety practice categories, and competencies required for each category, was being followed, and would apply to the construction industry, Prof Smallwood said.
Meanwhile ACHASM, a semi private construction safety membership body, was formed with the backing of Prof Smallwood and his colleagues. However, two other bodies are contesting the role of ‘registrar’, and two or more bodies vie for support among general safety practitioners in construction and other industrial sectors.
DOL silent on registration policy
One of the bones of contention is an initiative in the construction industry to request the state to enforce registration of construction safety practitioners, and the formation of several bodies to capitalise on income from registration and examination services.
Some safety practitioners support alignment with existing international bodies, some offer home grown criteria and boards, and some want employers to rely only on qualifications from accredited training institutions.
The Department of Labour relied on consulting health and safety specialists on its ACOHS and technical committee, construction bodies, as well as public comment, but had failed to consult general health, safety and environment practitioners, consultants, trainers or employers about the impasse between membership bodies, the lack of higher level sheq training standards, the generally low level of sheq qualifications, and problems with tertiary sheq training services.
Construction health and safety budgets and training have also been questioned. The definition of a construction Agent had sparked debate and may be changed.
Construction workers complaining
The National Union of Mineworkers had accused construction sector employers of poor hygiene facilities, poor living conditions on site, poor eating and changing facilities, forcing workers to work in unsafe areas, and ‘budgeting’ for an expected level of accidents and loss of life.
There is a lack of input from employees into OHS programs on construction sites, while workers are specialists who best know how to deal with many daily risk situations, said an NUM representative at a construction conference.
Asbestos Regulations amended
DOL is also amending the Asbestos Regulations to bring it in line with international best practise. Asbestos removal is already declared as demolition work, to be done strictly in accordance with relevant legislation.