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A ‘ticking time bomb’

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“The building should be condemned, we cannot work under these conditions. The only visible work that was done properly was the paintwork.”

Picture: Supplied

NEWSPAPERS that are being used as curtains, a rat infestation, malfunctioning fire detectors and no emergency exits are just some of the perils that staff members have to endure at the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature precinct.

According to a shocking preliminary independent occupational health and safety report that was released recently, the building is a “ticking time bomb” that poses serious safety hazards, where shoddy workmanship is to blame.

The Department of Labour also conducted an inspection of the site yesterday.

Staff relocated back to the precinct in January after the building underwent a R37 million upgrade that dragged on for over two years.

Staff members stated that the building was left in a worse condition than before any repair work commenced.

“The building should be condemned, we cannot work under these conditions. The only visible work that was done properly was the paintwork.”

Employees refused to park their cars inside the legislature grounds or enter the building yesterday, as the report that was compiled by Bsafe Africa “strongly recommended for the building to be closed or placed under lockdown”.

“There are many safety, health and environmental risks in the offices. The health of employees in the Blue Building are at risk. There are structural and design problems too. It is our opinion that the wiring at the administration wing must be redone,” the report stated.

The report, commissioned by the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature, ordered that the employer comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Environmental Management Act.

An assessment was made of the administration wing, which is occupied by about 70 people, the archive basement that has between one to six employees, the security and records building that is occupied by 30 workers and the members wing building and basement that accommodate about 50 people.

The report advised that the security and records building should be “vacated immediately” until a permanent solution was found.

“It is not suitable for worker occupation as it poses a health and safety risk. At all offices in the administration wing the wiring must be re-done properly by a competent contractor. This can be done over weekends.”

Cables submerged in underground water in the members wing building were identified as a “living time bomb”.

“Water is capable of destroying almost everything if the structure is not designed for it. The transformers are leaking oil that is a clear sign of a lack of proper maintenance.”

The report added that it was unacceptable for the transformer’s switchgears to be covered by plastic to protect them from water damage during rainy days.

The report indicated that toilet basins were used as kitchen basins, electrical plugs and wiring were hazardous and a kitchen was being used as an office.

It pointed to “poor workmanship that can be seen all over the place”.

“There are no proper health and safety structures in place. The malfunctioning drainage system can result in possible flooding of the basement and serious safety compromise.”

It urged for the toilets to be “fixed urgently” as the ablution blocks in the administration wing posed an “infringement on human dignity”.

“Toilet seats are too low on the ground and taller ladies are uncomfortable. It is supposed to be at least 50 centimetres off the ground. The toilet roll holder is broken and promotes stealing. Some of the toilet doors cannot lock and there is no privacy. The toilets are leaking or are not working due to the plumber’s shady work.”

The report added that serious health risks were posed by the contamination of underground water by the municipal sewerage system that runs next to the building..

It was reported that there were no approved building plans and that this amounted to a “serious violation” of national building regulations.

“Rats are invading the premises, which could possibly attract snakes, and mosquitoes are breeding in the stagnant water, while there is no ventilation for workers. There are buzzing insects all over, causing discomfort to employees who are being bitten, while the use of Doom and detergents might create health problems. There are offices without windows. The water tanks and fire tanks are not working, back-up generators are not working. Workers are falling ill as a result of the lack of hygiene.”

It recommended that all leaking roofs be fixed to “avoid possible disaster”.

“The archive offices are smelling badly due to wet carpets and mats. The high moisture content is damaging tables and chairs.

“Workers could become trapped inside the building in the event of a fire as the exit door in the administration wing is locked due to ‘security risks’.”

The legislature was instructed to replace fused light bulbs, resubmit and or redesign all building drawings to comply with the national building regulations and establish emergency escape routes.

National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) branch chairperson Ntsikelelo Tshandu believed that criminal charges should be opened against the contractor for receiving millions of rand while no work was done.

“Millions were spent on removing the partitioning. The glass curtain of the members building was apparently replaced at a cost of
R2 million although the glass tiles are loose, skew and could collapse at any time.”

Tshandu indicated that the drainage system extraction fans and air conditioners were not working properly, while ground water was seeping under the carpets.

“If it rains we are unable to use the toilets. We requested the Speaker to intervene although the only suggestion made was that we should share toilets, which is not a practical solution because there are not enough toilets that are functional.”

Staff added that a double brick wall was used to separate the bathroom stalls, which made the toilets extremely narrow.