South Africa 7.9.2018 08:54 am

Government appoints committee to oversee relocation of workers from unsafe buildings

Firefighters continue to battle the fire in the Department of Health building in the Johannesburg CBD for the second day, 6 September 2018.  Picture: Neil McCartney

Firefighters continue to battle the fire in the Department of Health building in the Johannesburg CBD for the second day, 6 September 2018. Picture: Neil McCartney

The immediate priority for the committee would be to oversee the evacuation of officials from non-compliant buildings and relocate them to suitable ones.

The Gauteng provincial government said it had established a high-level steering committee to centralise the safety function for all buildings accommodating government employees.

The Occupational Health and Safety steering committee will be chaired by the member of the executive committee for the department of infrastructure development Jacob Mamabolo.

The move comes after the 23-storey Bank of Lisbon building in the Johannesburg central business district which houses the province’s departments of health, human settlements and cooperative governance caught fire on Wednesday and was extinguished on Thursday night.

One firefighter fell to his death while two others died while battling the blaze. The three have been named as Simphiwe Moropane (28), Mduduzi Ndlovu (40), and Kathutshelo Muedi (37). At least 13 officials from the department of health were hospitalised and treated for smoke inhalation, but have since been discharged.

Mamabolo admitted on Wednesday that the building, among eight owned by the government in Joburg, was only 21% compliant against the norm of 85% in terms of safety rules, and contravened the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

In a statement early on Friday, the government said the establishment of the committee was in line with the Act which places safety as a key responsibility of all heads of departments.

The immediate priority for the committee would be to oversee the evacuation of officials from non-compliant buildings and relocate them to suitable ones.

Mamabolo said the government would fast-track its processes to secure safe accommodation for the 1 115 staff members displaced by the fire at the Bank of Lisbon building.

He said the workers would ultimately be accommodated within the Kopanong precinct, a R16 billion inner-city rejuvenation programme which will also inject investment into all government-owned government buildings through a public-private partnership.

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