Working at Heights – Who is looking out for public safety?

Working at Heights – Who is looking out for public safety?

Do you ever pass a building wrapped in scaffolding, and stop to consider the measures taken to protect the public from works at height? Being in the scaffolding industry, I do. All the time.

It is highly concerning how often this element of public safety is entirely overlooked when it comes to access scaffolding. There are too many near misses, serious injuries, and deaths on construction sites around Cape Town to NOT take this issue seriously. And the worst part? The public is oblivious to the danger overhead.

Any time that access scaffolding is erected in the vicinity of the public, protection is both a legal and moral obligation. The SANS 10085 code (the code that governs the erection of scaffolding in SA), is clear in terms of protection of the public. Yet, too often, the code is simply ignored on sites around Cape Town, and beyond.

I have had numerous conversations with influential players in the health & safety industry in Cape Town, in which I have asked where the solution lies. The answer is always the same… ”It’s a disgrace, but unfortunately nobody is policing the safety of the public (and on-site labour) in close proximity to scaffolds erected around Cape Town”.

Ultimately, the responsibility lies with the Department of Labour to police the safe erection of scaffolding and insuring the protection of the public, but unfortunately they are understaffed and do not have the skills required to successfully execute their mandate.

So, for the time being it’s a lottery, left largely up to the main contractor and scaffold contractor to determine the attitude that will be taken towards site and public safety around access scaffolding.

Double CFC SANS10085-compliant protection fan in the CBD

Double CFC SANS10085-compliant protection fan in the CBD

Make no mistake, there are many contractors in Cape Town that take this element of safety very seriously. I have worked with many of them.

Sadly, their are also many building contractors and scaffolding contractors who simply don’t.

What will it take for our industry to wake up to the risks associated with access scaffolding and the protection of the public? Another ‘near miss’? Another injury? Another death?

In the mean time… look up, and watch your head!

Author: David Poole (Joint CEO)

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