Hospital Collapse

Contractor blamed for hospital roof collapse

A seemingly straight-forward job to repair leaks in the roof of a hospital, resulted in a collapse, fortunately not causing any fatalities, but still injuring 5 people.

The collapse of the roof near the foyer of Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital, Johannesburg on Thursday 2 March 2017 was a result of the company hired to do maintenance work on the roof failing to assess its strength before piling weight on it, said Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. He addressed the media and said the maintenance company should be held accountable for the roof collapsing and injuring people.

After visiting the site where five people sustained injuries Infrastructure MEC Jacob Mamabolo said the contractor, Thandzanani Trading Enterprise, would be removed from the site with immediate effect. "We could clearly see the structure on which the contractor was working. The way they were removing the concrete stone, we could see they did not do a proper check on the strength of the building or the roof itself. We don't think that there was a preliminary check, that's why it collapsed. They removed the concrete stones and put them on a site on top of the structure. Because of the weight on concrete stones, the roof collapsed."

The roof was apparently covered with a layer of stone chips for insulation and ultra-violet ray protection. This was removed and stockpiled on the roof so that the leaks could be repaired.

The contractor should have done a risk assessment to investigate the danger of stockpiling stone chips on the roof. The designer of the roof probably did not consider such a concentrated loading during maintenance in the operations life cycle.

The Department of Labour (DOL) and the South African Council for Project and Construction Management Professions (SACPCMP) has done a lot of work to prevent such collapses, but they continue to happen at an alarming rate.

  • In 2015 a temporary bridge over the M1 motorway in Johannesburg collapsed killing 2 people and causing major disruptions. The DOL inquiry was suspended in September 2016 to await input from an expert witness.
  • In 2014 a double-storey house in Meyersdal, Alberton collapsed killing 7 people. The DOL inquiry is still in progress.
  • In 2013 there was a collapse at the Tongaat Mall in KZN killing 2 people. When the building collapsed there was a court order in place prohibiting the contractor from building, but this was ignored. The DOL inquiry is still  in progress.
  • The SACPCMP have established two structures, to develop policies and guidelines for the registration of the Construction Health & Safety  profession:
    • CH&S Forum
    • CH&S Task Team
  • The following categories were ratified by SACPCMP in 2012.
    • CH&S Agent
    • CH&S Manager
    • CH&S Officer 
  • The SACPCMP requires all built environment projects to have a registered Construction Project Manager and a Health & Safety Agent to be appointed on every site. Notwithstanding all this the collapses continue.
  • However, there is a silent killer, not just collapses that are fatal. In February this year six workers died in an accident in Salisbury Naval Base, KZN. The contractors were conducting repairs to a pump in a pit of about five metres deep. The accident involved inhalation of methane gas by three Department of Public Works contractors and three military officials who tried to assist them when they were overcome by the deadly methane gas. About 21 Navy officers who tried to rescue the workers were rushed to hospital as they also got affected by the gas.

    ProjectPro will publish an update on the various DOL inquiries in our next issue of eNews.

    If you are interested in knowing more about construction project management and H&S, join ProjectPro’s next Engineering & Construction Project Management by registering on http://www.projectpro.co.za/Training_Schedules/training_schedules.HTM

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