23 January 2019

South Africa: Labour On Testimony of Freightmax During Imperial Logistics Construction Collapse Inquiry

press release

Operations Director testifies that Freightmax, its employees and executives cannot be held responsible for the collapse of Imperial Logistics structure in Jacobs, Durban

Shaun Barker, the Operations Director from Freightmax, a logistics and transport company, testified before the Imperial Logistics Construction Collapse inquiry that the "accident in Jacobs near Durban cannot be imputed to Freightmax, its employees and executives".

Barker told the inquiry that, "Freightmax took all reasonable steps to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)" during the construction of stores facility. He further extended his condolences and apologies to the families, friends and colleagues who passed away on the fateful day, including those who were injured.

According to Barker he has been working for Freightmax as Operations Director since 1998. Freightmax is a business unit of Imperial Logistics. He has a Degree in Logistics from the University of Johannesburg (formerly RAU). Barker, before joining Freightmax has been involved in the logistics and carrier industry.

He testified before the inquiry that on the date of the incident he was in the office when he heard a loud bang and the building shaking. He said given the magnitude of the noise and as per the incident protocol he notified his seniors and fellow colleagues about what had occurred.

The Department of Labour appointed formal inquiry into the collapse of the structure that was under construction on the premises of Imperial Logistics at 11 Milner Street in Jacobs, Durban in KwaZulu-Natal formally started today at the offices of KwaZulu-Natal Master Builders Association's offices, 40 Essex Terrace, Westville.

The inquiry follows the 28 March 2018 incident that led to the death of four workers: Bhekuyise Moses Sibiya, France Mokhuthu Sekalu, Constandino Mapukula and Siyabonga Bhane. Four other employees sustained cracked skull, fractured spine, injuries to abdomen, and muscular skeletal system.

During the incident Echo Prestress, a precast roofing company, was busy with the final installation of the concrete precast roof slab. At approximately 12H30, the precast concrete structure collapsed resulting in the deaths and injury of workers.

The collapse caused structural damages to an adjacent building and a heavy duty vehicle which was stationary on the public road along the perimeter fence of the facility.

Following the collapse the Department of Labour's inspectors issued a prohibition notice to Imperial Logistics, prohibiting any further work from being undertaken until the circumstances and root cause surrounding the collapse were investigated.

The Section 32 hearing has been appointed by the Department of Labour Chief Inspector, Mr Tibor Szana to investigate compliance to Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), and negligence that caused occupational injuries and death of workers.

Mr. Sandile Kubeka, a Department of Labour Specialist: Occupational Health & Safety is the Presiding Inspector of the formal inquiry. He is assisted by Mr Lennie Samuel, a Forensic Investigator from the Department of Labour's Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES) branch.

A total of 18 witnesses have been lined to testify before the Commission. Additional witnesses may/will be called in to testify based on information presented at the inquiry.

The affected parties in the building collapse incident include: Imperial Logistics (trading as Freightmax), Tilt Up SA, Talmac Engineering, ECHO Precast, Bedrock Construction, Archi Studio, JDF Construction, Moedi Engineering, Benrob Construction, and ECHO Prestress.

The inquiry continues tomorrow, 24 January from 10:00am.

Media is invited to the inquiry.

Issued by: Department of Labour

South Africa

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