Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The Gauteng provincial government has established a committee to centralise safety functions for all buildings accommodating its employees.

The establishment of a high-level provincial occupational health and safety steering committee follows the devastating fire in the Bank of Lisbon building on Wednesday, which led to the death of three firefighters trying to contain the blaze.

The building housed the offices of the Gauteng departments of health, human settlements, and co-operative governance and traditional affairs, on Sauer Street; it emerged after the fire that the building was not up to code.

The Gauteng department said the committee will by chaired by department of infrastructure development MEC Jacob Mamabolo and will be constituted by heads of the departments.

The function of the committee came into effect on Friday, with its priority assignment to oversee moving officials from non-compliant buildings and relocating them to suitable buildings.

The DA wants one current and one Gauteng government official to resign in the wake of the fire

The over-arching aim is to address there being no central co-ordination to oversee compliance at present.

The Gauteng government said on Friday that the establishment of the committee is in line with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which makes safety a key responsibility for all employers. It also said the centralisation of the function is intended to ensure co-ordination and oversight for full enforcement of safety regulations in all the departments.

"The immediate task of the committee is to stabilise the building safety environment in the province following the fire accident at the Bank of Lisbon building in the Johannesburg CBD."

The Gauteng government emphasised that the centralisation of the function does not take away the legislative responsibility of accounting officers in respect of occupational safety, but seeks to ensure the function is stabilised, and works in the most efficient and effective manner. When that point is reached, a determination will be made on its gradual decentralisation.

Meanwhile, DA Gauteng health spokesperson Jack Bloom said on Friday that reports on safety hazards at the Bank of Lisbon building were not acted on because an occupational health and safety committee was only set up in the second quarter of this year. He said this information was revealed at a meeting of the Gauteng legislature’s health committed held on Thursday after the fire.

Bloom added that former Gauteng health MEC Qedani Mahlangu failed to ensure there was an occupational health and safety committee for the Bank of Lisbon building, and that it took more than a year for health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa to get it set up only a few months ago.

The DA has called on Mamabolo and Ramokgopa to resign in the wake of the fire.