This newspaper has commented previously on the urban building boom – particularly as it relates to the growth of commerce in the city – and its implications for exercising an enhanced level of vigilance as far as issues of safety and health are concerned.
The building boom involves – in the main – huge structures, the plans for which appear to secure official approval in record time. Though, we are told, there are ‘considerations’ extended to officials employed in the agencies concerned and connected with the granting of those approvals.
The surfeit of construction coincides with the absence of building regulations, the unsafe and indiscriminate dumping of builders’ waste and the seeming unmindfulness on the part of some contractors of safety and health regulations. When these are added up the result is a situation that reeks of both considerable physical risk and profound lawlessness.
It would be wrong to arrive at a premature conclusion regarding what might have caused Monday’s accident at the City Food Court worksite that resulted in injuries being sustained by four workers. However, we agree with Mr Dale Beresford, a safety and health professional who agreed to speak with us, that there should be a transparent and thorough probe into the incident; that the findings be made public and that, where necessary, the culpable parties be made to answer. In the circumstances it would surely be adding blatant insult to injury by not undertaking an inquiry.
Such an inquiry should be undertaken by the Ministry of Labour. It should, among other things, take account of the integrity of the structure which reportedly collapsed with the four men. And assuming that it is handled with the requisite seriousness, it should not take more than a few days.
Beyond that, a general health and safety inspection of the building site should be attended by conclusions and, where necessary, apportion responsibility and blame. In this context, the issue of compensating the injured men should be dealt with accordingly. That would at least go some way towards persuading at least some of us that all is not lost when it comes to being mindful of important rules and regulations.
Nor would it hurt if the City Food Court occurrence were to be a precursor to a wider enquiry into whether there is a correlation between structures that are under construction and the full and final approval of their building plans. We raise this issue because it has come to our attention that there may be instances in which structures may have commenced (and in some instances completed) prior to the approval of the building plans. That, we are told, is another facet of the corruption in which functionaries attached to the approving entities are involved.
As an aside it is instructive to raise the issue as to whether the various private sector support organisations do not have a particular responsibility to speak up on the matters pertaining to building regulations and safety and health in the erection of urban structures that are intended for commercial purposes. More investment means an expanded economy and more jobs but surely the private sector needs to weigh the real costs of these investments. Huge buildings which, over time, begin to sink, crack or lean; constructions that swallow up drains and parapets; structures that take no account of occupant safety in circumstances of emergency and edifices that ruthlessly erode the aesthetics of the city will – perhaps sooner rather than later – come back to haunt us.