Home News Sub-station death ‘could have been avoided’

Sub-station death ‘could have been avoided’

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The family of Sol Plaatje Municipality electrical assistant Enrico Jose Convivious, 40, who died after sustaining severe burn injuries when the Hercules Street sub-station exploded, believes that he might have survived if he had been provided with the proper safety gear.

Family members Bianca Convivious, Julia Walls, Alice Manuel and Eddie Manuel are struggling to come to terms with the death of Enrico Convivious. Picture: Soraya Crowie

THE FAMILY of Sol Plaatje Municipality electrical assistant Enrico Jose Convivious, 40, who died after sustaining severe burn injuries when the Hercules Street sub-station exploded, believes that he might have survived if he had been provided with the proper safety gear.

Convivious and three colleagues were attending to a cable fault at the sub-station in Herlear at the time of the incident on Monday.

Sol Plaatje municipal electrical assistant Enrico Jose Convivious died from severe burn injuries. Picture: Supplied

Sol Plaatje Municipality electrician Faiek Adams was also fatally injured after sustaining severe burn injuries while working at the Aviva mini sub-station in Hillcrest, which caught fire in 2022.

South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) members staged a protest at the council yard on Wednesday this week over the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), where they indicated that workers were being exposed to dangerous working conditions.

Tyres were set alight during a protest at the council yard this week. Picture: Soraya Crowie

Bianca Convivious said that she and her young children were devastated by her husband’s death.

“Enrico was in a tremendous amount of pain and told me not to cry shortly before he passed away. He suffered burn wounds all over his body, face and eyes – where his vision was affected. Only his feet were not burnt,” said Bianca.

She stated that it would be difficult to raise a nine-year-old daughter and four-year-old twins on her own, on a single income.

“The twins (a boy and a girl) will be starting Grade R next year.”

She added that Enrico had 18 years of service at the municipality.

“He loved his work. He was employed in the electrical department for the past six years although he was never sent for any courses. He learnt everything on the job.

“He had to work without safety gloves or a visor inside the sub-station on May 11. If he had been given the regulatory PPE, he would not have sustained such severe burn wounds.

“Enrico is not the first employee in the electrical section to have suffered this fate.”

Sol Plaatje municipal electrical assistant Enrico Convivious was allegedly not provided with the necessary safety gear when he was attending to a cable fault at the Herlear sub-station. Picture: Supplied

Bianca said that the family were waiting for the Department of Labour report on the incident to be released.

“The funeral is expected to be held next weekend as forensic pathology is still busy with their investigations.”

Alice Manuel believed that the municipality should take responsibility for her eldest son’s death.

“We have lost a son and father. There is no price that you can put on a life,” said Manuel.

Another relative, Richard Walls, added that doctors had advised that Convivious had suffered 90 percent burn wounds.

“His kidneys were also affected.”

Family member Elrich Walls stated that Convivious was dedicated to his work and was always ready to respond to a call-out.

“He was self-taught in the electrical trade and was good at his work. He was only sent for training at a college for plumbing. We want to know if the sub-station was well-maintained and if all precautions were taken to prevent injury and death.”

Samwu members downed tools at the council yard. Picture: Soraya Crowie

Samwu local chairperson Daily Semau stated that workers were afraid of responding to electrical call-outs in light of the number of fatalities and the lack of PPE.

“The proper safety equipment would have protected Convivious from serious injury. We have agreed to call off strike action until after his funeral,” Semau.

“Workers are supposed to be provided with PPE in June … sometimes it arrives in December. There is a shortage of PPE across all units including electrical, sanitation and refuse. The municipality cannot say there is no money, because PPE is an essential requirement.”

Semau stated that if electrical workers were not provided with PPE in line with the occupational and health safety requirements by next week, the union would embark on a full-blown strike on May 22.

“Until then, workers are prepared to risk their lives without PPE for the sake of the community. A service provider was on site on Wednesday to take our sizes and measurements. If the couriers do not deliver by May 21, we will drive to the source to go and fetch it.”

Semau pointed out that they had yet to be provided with the report into the death of electrician Faiek Adams, two years after the incident.

“If there was any oversight or negligence, we need to know, in order to prevent further deaths.”

Samwu has threatened to embark on a full-blown strike if workers are not provided with PPE. Picture: Soraya Crowie

Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesperson Thabo Mothibi said the municipal manager, Thapelo Matlala, was still awaiting the report from the Department of Labour following their assessment of the sub-station.

“It is still early days in establishing the exact circumstances [of the explosion]. For now, we cannot predict the outcome of the investigation,” said Mothibi.

He said that Convivious joined the electrical department in 2016.

“An in-service training process is fundamental in ensuring employees are equipped with requisite skills.

“The municipality, as a caring employer, has already interacted with the bereaved family to discuss support and the standard procedures that are applicable under the circumstances at hand.”

Mothibi added that Matlala had met with Samwu members and it was agreed that no employee would carry out their duties without the required PPE.

“Also, in the urgent purchasing of additional new PPE, the recommended materials will be of utmost importance. Therefore, work continues while all grievances are being attended to.”

He stated that it was resolved to also discuss the report relating to the death of Faiek Adams.

“Future engagements will involve assessing the recommendations into pre-emptive safety measures that have been followed ever since.”

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