Dept closes construction site after 5 die

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pretoria - The Department of Labour has closed the construction site where five workers died when the trench they were digging collapsed on them in Lindley, Eastern Free State at the weekend.

Labour inspectors have banned all operations while they investigate the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.

The five workers were digging a trench five meters deep when excavated sand fell on top of one them. They were installing sewerage pipes at Ntha township. His four colleagues tried to assist him and get him out of the sand but the whole trench collapsed on them, killing them all instantly.

During preliminary investigations it was discovered that the employer had not registered the construction site with the Department of Labour.

Departmental spokesperson Page Boikanyo told BuaNews that steps would be taken against the constructor should it be found that there was negligence on his part. "People's lives come first," he said.

The department has urges all employers and employees to ensure that their workplaces comply with the regulations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Inspectors continuously conduct inspections to ensure labour law compliance.

According to the department, the Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers bring about and maintain a reasonable practicable work environment that is safe and without risk to the health of the workers.

In order to minimise the risks to workers across the sector, government has been redoubling its efforts and enforcing law compliance.

Labour Minister Membhathisi Mdladlana has sent his condolences to the families of the deceased. The department is assisting the families of the deceased with preparing the relevant documents for the Compensation Fund as well as Unemployment Insurance Fund.