Parliament warned in 2018 about its lax safety, health and emergency plans
Audit found that parliament was ill-prepared to respond to emergencies
As the scramble for answers on what caused the fire that burnt the parliament building in Cape Town intensifies, it has emerged that officials were warned four years ago that its safety and health management systems were almost non-existent.
This, the 2018 report showed, posed a high risk.
This is contained in an audit report on parliament’s safety, health and environment (SHE), which was issued in May 2018.
At the time, it was found that parliament was ill-prepared to respond to emergencies and accidents should they break out. Moreover, the audit established that there was inadequate management of SHE risks and incidents.
The audit covered, among other areas, the capability for risk management, and ergonomic and environmental risk assessments and controls.
A safe working process “should be developed and implemented”, the audit report advised.
“This will ensure a formal procedure, which results from systematic examination of a task to identify all the hazards. It defines safe methods to ensure that hazards are eliminated or risks minimised.
“The provision of both financial (for equipment, training, consultancy, etc.) and manpower (enough and with the right skills) resources is essential in the management of health and safety,” the report states.
It continues: “Risk assessment is a powerful tool for identifying priorities for which resources need to be allocated.”
At a media briefing on Monday, National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula ignored a question about what parliament had done to implement the recommendations of the 2018 audit report.
The report also observed that parliament’s stingy expenditure on safety matters was informed by a lack of understanding that benefits can only be felt after the spending has been incurred.
Parliament had failed to implement systems required by the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations.
Parliament failed to identify roles, responsibilities and authorities, instead going to a 'blind leading the blind' approach, the audit found.
In this regard, work done by parliament officials in its safety, health and environment units was mostly ad hoc and instinctive, “rather than policy or procedure driven”.
Further to this, parliament was found wanting for not having a signed and approved occupational safety and health policy document. Not only that, parliament had no established methodology or procedure for hazard identification and risk assessment.
To make matters worse on occupational safety and health, parliament had failed to identify roles, responsibilities and authorities, instead going to a “blind leading the blind” approach, the audit found.
“Sufficient resources must be provided to ensure the effective implementation and improvement of the occupational safety and health management system. This must be based upon the ability of the organisation to meet its obligations successfully,” the auditors advised.
“No evidence was identified as to how personnel would react in the event of an emergency as there was no clear, approved and communicated procedure documenting this,” the 2018 document said.
“To determine the success or failure of the SHE programme, there are very specific requirements such as the introduction of policies and procedures. Having this in place allows the auditor to measure the work being done against very specific requirements.
“This is a system that involves the input from all employees through safety training and participation through safety committees, none of which was evident during the audit.”