Johannesburg — Construction work at all Eskom sites countrywide have been suspended following the accident at a site near Ladysmith where six people died, CEO Brian Dames said on Friday.
"It is too early to properly understand exactly what happened and to understand the impact it would have on any of our activities, but for now the site will remain closed until the investigation is concluded," he said.
"Safety is non-negotiable... I have instructed that there is a work stoppage on all of Eskom's construction sites and that would allow everybody to stop the work to reflect on the safety standards on sites."
He said this would ensure that all the safety standards were in place. The stoppage would last for as long as it took until all site managers were sure that their safety standards were in place and checked.
There was no "production pressure" that was more important than the safety of people, he said.
Dames was addressing the media at the Eskom headquarters in Johannesburg along with chairman Zola Tsotsi and general manager Gerrie Bronkhorst.
Bronkhorst said four of the six people who died in the accident at Eskom's Ingula pumped storage scheme near Ladysmith on Thursday morning were foreigners.
"Of the six fatalities, four are foreign nationals and two are South Africans," he said.
He would not divulge their nationalities.
"Of those injured, three have been discharged and four are still in the ICU."
He said the accident happened between 8.15am and 9am on Thursday.
Dames said an investigation would be led by an external legal team and Eskom would take remedial action.
"We will ensure that the families are looked after and we will not leave a stone unturned to ensure that they are looked after," he said.
"Safety for us is very important. It is important to allow time for the investigation to take place."
Dames said Eskom would not release the names of those who had died until all family members had been notified and he asked that those injured be given space to recover in hospital.
He made an appeal to contractors that all of them stand up and take personal responsibility for the safety in their companies and for their employees.
"I think we have seen significant strides from Eskom in focusing on safety but think we have not seen that from companies that work for us," he said.
"You are not there to make money out of Eskom -- you are there to help us build this company and look after the safety of your people. We are determined to make sure that those that died did not die in vain. We will use the lessons that we learned from this tragedy to make sure that lives are safe in the future."
He said the safety of employees and contractors was a priority and the incident required them to take a look at how they viewed safety.
Eskom's first priority was to look after the families of the six people who died and those who were injured.
Trauma counsellors had been dispatched to the site for all the workers on site and for those in hospital and for their families.
Initial reports on Thursday said only three remained in hospital, but Bronkhorst on Friday said four people were still in the intensive care unit.
Dames and Tsotsi expressed their condolences to the families of those who died.
Tsotsi described the accident as a setback.
"We will leave no stone unturned to uncover what happened," he said.
The men were doing welding and grouting on a platform in one of four tunnels when the platform came loose and rolled down the tunnel.
All 3387 workers on site were evacuated.
From noon on Friday, the power utility will fly all its flags at half-mast for one week in honour of the six people who had died.