WORK on the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature has been suspended since last month due to non-compliance with occupational health and safety regulations. This follows an inspection that was conducted on the site in April.
A R30 million tender was awarded to repair cracks in the walls, the underground basement that was flooded with water, leaks, collapsing ceilings, plumbing and electrical problems. A time frame of 14 months was allocated for the refurbishment of the building.
The building, which was opened in 2003 at a cost of R88,5 million, was issued with a prohibition notice in October last year.
Staff were advised not to make use of the elevators until the source of the underground water was identified and all electrical connections were declared unsafe.
Legislature staff are currently being accommodated at the BP Jones Building as well as MetLife Towers.
The contractor, of their own accord, requested time to remedy some of the discrepancies following a visit by the Department of Labour on April 4. All attempts to obtain comment from the contractor were unsuccessful.
According to sources there was non-compliance to keeping workers employed on the site where files, containing their details and medical fitness, were not up to date.
“There was also no safety representative on site, although workers are operating heavy machinery that poses a serious safety risk.”
It appears as if casual workers also abandoned the site because they did not receiving the wages agreed upon – a minimum of R11,72 per hour for a nine-hour working day.
“Some workers claim not to have received any payment or receive R100 per day. They were also employed without any contract in place.”
Spokeswoman for the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature, Carmen Gopane, confirmed that a joint decision was made to temporarily place the refurbishment project on hold.
“This will be done to allow the appointed consultant, the contractor and the legislature time to ensure that all the required safety compliance standards are addressed and to ensure that all the required documentation is forwarded to the department by the contractor.
“Although the Department of Labour did not serve any notice on the contractor, it fulfilled its mandate by stipulating the relevant provisions of the occupational health safety legislation, advising the contractor to speed up compliance. In the meantime the Department of Labour acknowledged receiving documents from the contractor related to the compliance standards.”
She indicated that an official site meeting would be conducted on Thursday, together with all stakeholders, where the Department of Labour would be invited to attend and evaluate the occupational health safety requirements and clear the site to allow construction to resume.
Gopane added that the legislature was in the process of appointing an occupational health and safety (OHS) consultant.
“All safety related matters are currently being attended to and the main contractor has always ensured that workers are provided with safety clothing. The contractor has provided all workers in its employment with overalls, safety boots, vests and helmets.”
She said that work was still on track where the project would be completed before the end of the year.
“The site was officially handed over to the contractor on December 1 2016. The site establishment started in mid-January and actual construction started towards the end of January.
“In terms of the construction programme, the contractor is still on track with the work, mindful of the temporary interruption to attend to the safety issues.”
Gopane added that the origin of the underground water in the basement was identified and drained.
“It was not a water leak. The origin of the water present in the storm water system has been identified as a natural underground stream that is being drained via the existing sub-soil drainage system that was provided for in the original design of the building. This sub-soil drainage system is also in the process of being upgraded as part of the ongoing project to better manage the underground stream.”
She explained that, according to the last progress assessment compiled by the surveyor, 31 percent of the work had been completed as of March this year.
“If there are no further interruptions, the estimated completion date is still December 1, as initially stipulated.”
She stated that payments were only made for actual work done.
“The contractual agreement only makes allowance for payment for actual work done, according to the actual percentage that is determined by the quantity surveyor. The contractor has received all payments due to it and will only qualify for payment when work resumes and progress can be recorded, calculated and certified by the professional team.”
The Department of Labour stated that it was aware of the issues at the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature, but did not provide further comment.