Posted on: February 3, 2012 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 0

Workers complained of electrical, fumes, slip and fire hazards at Dekra Automotive vehicle test station in a basement in Church Street, Hatfield, Pretoria.

“People have been working here at health and safety risk for two years, all week, and on Saturday mornings, in fumes, with electrical cables lying in water where workers walk, with no ventilation, empty fire extinguishers, and no hazard signage”, said a worker.

“We pump water from the basement and from vehicle inspection pits every day, sometimes ankle deep, apparently from groundwater seepage. There is no health and safety rep and no fire drill.”

The vehicle testing centre rents a shopping centre basement in an affluent suburb, at Church and Gordon road, where Hatfield Roadworthy CC used to operate, but is moving to more suitable premises in Duncan Road, Hatfield, Pretoria.

Following circulation of complaints to authorities by SHEQafrica.com, management replaced fire extinguishers and removed some items from the site.

Dekra Automotive operates about 45 other vehicle testing stations in South Africa, a subsidiary of a parent company in Germany, not directly related to Dekra Industrial health and safety consultants and trainers, and also separate from Dekra auditing and certification business.

Dekra Automotive general manager Wayne McDuling commented to queries from SHEQafrica.com that health and safety conditions on site were “much worse” when they bought a bankrupt going concern from Hatfield Roadworthy CC.

Dekra Automotive did not do a risk assessment, but fumigated, fixed cables, painted, improved toilets and improved showers.

“We have several problems with the landlord, some relating to ventilation and health and safety conditions on site. Workers broke the showers and toilets that we had spent money on to improve,” McDuling said. Workers in turn say that there is only one toilet, and no shower.

At the Dekra Automotive testing centre in Hatfield, Pretoria, workers complain of no ventilation where gas fumes collect, no risk management, little dialogue, headaches, and slips on the shop floor.

“Water lies on the floor and fumes are all around us, espcially in the mornings. We have complained to Department of Labour, to a labour union, and to the automotive ombudsman, to no avail.”

A Tshwane metro official told SHEQafrica.com; “A worker contacted me about his concerns towards various hazards at Dekra Automotive in Church and Gordon Streets, Colbyn [Hatfield], Pretoria.”

Dekra Automotive responds

Dekra Automotive general manager Wayne McDuling explained to SHEQafrica.com that workplace conditions at Hatfield Test Centre “are not the occupational health and safety standards we aspire towards.

“During 2011, we realised that there were certain OHS deficiencies at Hatfield Test Centre. Despite numerous efforts to address and rectify these, many of the interventions were unsuccessful.”

He blames some health and safety failures on the particular premises, the landlord, and some workers.

“The health and safety of Dekra employees is a priority. We decided to relocate. Our business is very specific in respect of type of premises required, and it has taken longer than expected to resolve. The process to move Hatfield started in November 2011.

“There are certain logistical challenges in moving some machinery, to be completed in February 2012, with operations scheduled to move in March 2012.”

Hand pumps to clear groundwater

Commenting on current working conditions, McDuling said; “Groundwater seepage is a common problem at vehicle test centres where the water table is high. In newer facilities, pumps are installed, but older test centres like Hatfield use hand pumps.

“The wash bay has a high edged border for water catchment and drainage, where workers are issued with Wellingtons boots. Public is not permitted access to the vehicle test centre or the wash bay in the rear.

“Front parking bays are open to the atmosphere, where cleaning chemicals are used, that may smell.

“Dekra test centres are equipped with fire hydrants or hoses as required by local authorities. Inspection in February last year by a Fire Safety Officer of Tshwane Metro, found no defects in this regard.

“Fire hydrant service inspection at Hatfield test centre was conducted in April last year. Hydrants and hoses are serviced in accordance with municipal regulations by an external supplier.

“Occupational health and safety shortcomings and defects raised by Dekra Automotive employees at all Test Centres are dealt with immediately and resolved with employee comfort and safety as a priority.

“However, our business runs indoors and outdoors year round, and we appreciate that conditions could at times be uncomfortable”, McDuling said.

PHOTO; Site and operating conditions at a vehicle testing service confirm some worker complaints of multiple health and safety hazards and risks. The fire extinguisher on the photo was empty, and replaced only after complaints to authorities. Management alleges that some workers damaged facilities.

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