South Africa. I read with interest a letter written by Erika Bezuidenhout, a safety consultant, in defense of the Heath and Safety record of Billion Construction’s Hemingways Mall construction site in East London.
Round 1: Fatality at Hemingways Mall
On 8 October 2008, a construction worker fell to his death at the Hemingways Mall construction site in East London and the police opened an inquest docket.
Apparently, a section that the man was standing on gave way and he fell from a height of between 17m and 19m.
At that time, James Stewart, director of Billion Group Projects , said that all work was stopped for the day. “The Billion Group Safety staff, the police and the Labour Department are investigating the accident.
Department spokesperson Vuyokazi Mbanjwa confirmed that labour inspectors visited the site. “Our team is investigating the accident and as soon as they are finished a confidential report will be issued within 14 days,” she said.
The report would then be forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecution.
Round 2: More bad publicity
Then the case received some more negative publicity when Costa Gazi the Buffalo City councillor stated in a follow-up letter that the recent death was “the third death that has occurred due to the company’s rapid transformation of our quiet city.”
He said that the first death was on the Mdantsane site when a young boy was buried by an earth-mover and suffocated. In another incident, a rock flew through the air after a blast and crashed through the roof of a nearby hospital, killing a woman patient in her bed.
“We must hope that the police investigation on this occasion will attribute blame.” said Gazi.
Round 3: Erika responds
This must have prompted the following letter by Erika Bezuidenhout to the Daily Dispatch newspaper:
With reference to Another Billion group death (DD, October 14), it must however be noted that the death referred to at the Hemingways site is the first fatality for Billion Construction (Pty) Ltd and is deeply regretted by all concerned.
Hemingways Mall is the largest construction site in East London with a 167 000m² construction area and a 1377-member workforce. The following MBA safety awards have been won to date: regional 1st place and national 2nd place.
A full team of staff consisting of three full-time safety officers, 31 health and safety representatives and 26 first aiders manages all health and safety issues on site. All employees, either fixed-term or permanent from the main contractor and sub-contractors, must all comply with the same health and safety legal requirements according to the Occupational Health and Safety Act. All fixed-term employees are appointed and managed by a community liaison officer nominated by the local council to ensure that only competent and skilled construction workers are employed at all times.
The training programme, which has been in place from the onset of the project, includes HIV/Aids awareness, safety induction (1377 employees), toolbox talks (748) and conforms in all respects to any other statutory requirements.
Statistics applicable to this site:
- Average man hours worked: 3,150,427 hours to date,
- Lost time injuries: nine.
- Incident rate 0.63 percent (less than one third of the national average).
A pro-active approach to safety is taken on site. – Erika Bezuidenhout, safety consultant.
A South-African first?
This is the first time that I have ever seen a public rebuttal or response by a Safety professional to a media article.
To me, this is a clear indication that organisations and Health and Safety professionals now start to understand the value of a good Safety reputation and performance.
Are we also now starting to see a growing recognition of the media’s role in building or destroying reputation?
By: Ben Fouche
Source: Daily Dispatch Online