World Day for Safety and Health at Work – 28 April 2016

Every year the International Labour Organisation (ILO) observes the World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28 April.

Professor John Smallwood, Professor of Construction Management at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, has compiled the following article for SA Builder, highlighting the need for a paradigm shift from compliance to better practice in the construction sector.

Mobilising a paradigm shift from compliance to better practice

By Professor John Smallwood, Professor of Construction Management, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

John Smallwood, Professor of Construction Management, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

John Smallwood, Professor of Construction Management, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

The World Day for Safety and Health at Work is intended to focus international attention on promoting and creating a safety and health culture at work and to help reduce the number of occupational-related fatalities, injuries, and diseases.

It is significant that the 28 April is the day after the day on which South Africa celebrates the anniversary of the first democratic elections. Significant, because there is no real freedom, including security and human rights, till the threat from injury and disease is removed from workplaces.

South African construction continues to receive unfavourable media coverage due to trench collapses, building, deck, and slab collapses, fatalities, injuries, disease, and damage to public property. Furthermore, the focus is still on safety, health and ergonomic issues receiving limited or no attention. Although there is a need for a paradigm shift from compliance to better practice, including the addressing of primary health issues, there is still the elementary need for basic compliance.

Based upon extensive research, publishing, course, seminar, and workshop development, the author advocates the following to realise substantial change in South African construction health and safety (CHS):

  • The value ‘People are our most important resource’ (value = constituent of CHS culture);

  • Leadership in terms of CHS;

  • Management commitment, participation, and involvement in CHS;

  • Multi-stakeholder contributions to CHS – architects, clients, contractors, engineers, interior designers, landscape architects, material manufacturers and suppliers, project managers, quantity surveyors, and unions;

  • Optimum CHS culture, among other, a vision of fatality, injury, and disease free projects, and a goal of zero deviations as opposed to incidents or accidents;

  • Comprehensive CHS education and training of all stakeholders (designers included);

  • Competence accompanied by, among other, appropriate values and an exacting philosophy – the core competencies (self-image, traits, and motives) differentiate between superior and average performance i.e. at best the surface competencies (knowledge and skills) can only realise average performance;

  • Optimum status for CHS – greater than or at least equal to that afforded cost, quality, and time;

  • Sound construction management (bona fide as opposed to pseudo) i.e. management of construction by construction managers;

  • Integration of design and construction in general, but especially in terms of CHS;

  • Implementation of documented quality management systems in design and construction;

  • Implementation of documented CHS management systems in design and construction;

  • Focus on CHS regardless of circumstances – CHS is a value, not a priority;

  • Elimination / Mitigation of ‘excusitis’ (mind deadening thought disease manifested in excuses), and

  • Consciousness and mindfulness – constant cognisance with respect to the surrounding environment, attention relative to CHS, and mindful with respect to the implications of actions or omissions.

Corobrik installs quality-enhancing robotic technology at Lawley Factory

Improved productivity, environmental efficiency, flexibility and enhanced manufacturing quality are some of the massive benefits associated with Corobrik’s new robotic technology at its Lawley Factory.

In line with the company’s long-term plant efficiency programme, and following the highly successful installation of unique robotic systems at its Rietvlei factory in 2007, Corobrik installed a similar automated setting system at its Lawley factory in October last year.

This robotic system had to be specially designed for the Lawley factory because of its distinctive manufacturing requirements, making this a one-of-a-kind setting technology in the industry,” explained David Matlou, Corobrik Manufacturing Director. “By installing this innovative technology, the Corobrik Lawley plant is able to operate outside of peak electricity periods, reducing electricity costs whilst at the same time assisting the country with the shortage of electricity during peak periods, lowering greenhouse gases, and giving our customers even better products.”

Following the learning experiences of the Rietvlei robotics design and installation, the engineering team, led by Daniele Torricelli, Corobrik’s director of engineering and Andreas Ntseki factory manager at Lawley, delivered the project on time and within budget. The design specification was complex as it was the first robotic setting in the world for a Transverse Arch Kiln.

The low growth in the economy has resulted in contraction of work in the building sector,” says David Matlou. “Thus the market is very competitive – and in order to maintain and increase market share in these difficult times we continue to deploy technology designed to increase capacity, improve quality and reduce operating costs.”

The robotics enable significant flexibility in production and the consistent gaps in the setting pattern achieved by the robotics allow for easy penetration of heat during the drying and firing processes which optimises the amount of energy required for brick production. Matlou explained that the product quality is significantly improved due to the robots precision in handling the raw clay product. This eliminates handling damage resulting from manual setting. “These improvements in precision have resulted in a three per cent increase in yields. This yield improvement is achieved through the consistent packing of brick packs by the robots,” continued Matlou. “This advanced plant automation technology minimises defects which means fewer rejects, better quality, and more uniformity in the end product for our customers.”

Overall production output remains unchanged as the output of the kilns determines factory capacity. Should kiln capacity be increased, processing at the robotic brick setting department can be increased easily without further investment being required.

The robotics’ complex technical systems demand an extremely high level of skill to ensure smooth operation. To this end, Corobrik selected six internal staff members for extensive training on the system, enabling them to manage and run the machines efficiently. Positions catered for in the training process were: Process Control Managers, Process Control Superintendents, Electricians and Production Supervisors.

As trading conditions improve Corobrik will continue to roll out robotic installations and focus on other plant efficiency programmes across its factories countrywide.

In 2002 Corobrik set about considering the positive impact of the improving economic conditions on its business and the longer term ramification thereof in terms of production capacity requirements. In the drive for reductions in energy consumption at all its operations the goal remains on focused lowering green house gas emissions and making a positive contribution to a more sustainable environment.

Plant upgrades and improvements completed since 2002 include:

  • Installation of advanced extrusion technology in all its plants.
  • Corobrik was the first brick making operation in South Africa to make changes from coal to gas in respect of fuel type with the view of trading carbon credits.
  • 2007: The re-engineering of the Rietvlei factory included the installation of robotic brick setting stations; the commissioning of two new tunnel kiln dryers; and the conversion of fuel from producer gas to natural gas.
  • 2014: The Company achieves ISO 9001 accreditation. Corobrik Lawley also has ISO14001 and OHSAS18001 accreditation.
  • 2015: Installation of robotics in the Lawley plant.

Riley elected President of MBA North

At the 112th Annual General Meeting of Master Builders Association North held in Midrand on February, Tony Riley, a senior executive of retail giant Massbuild, was elected as the new President, in succession to Charl Venter.

The MBA North also elected two new Vice-Presidents: Jason Wilmot, Managing Director of Hard Hat Equipment Hire; and Musa Shangase, Commercial Director of Corobrik. It is of interest to note that the new President and Vice Presidents are all from the supply side of the construction sector.

Also present at the function, which was well attended by Association members, were a number of Past Presidents: Nico Maas, Eunice Forbes, Neil Duncan, Lee Smith, Pieter Rüde and Terry Hinton.

MBA North Executive Committee members for 2016/2017

Wayne Albertyn – Gothic Construction

Rob Blackbeard – Steel Studio International

Bradley Boertje – Liviero Building

Leon Botha – Murray & Roberts

Peter Buchel – Buchel Hardware

Deon Calitz – WBHO Construction

Penny Cornelius – Pro-Plan Construction

Jose Correia – Tiber Construction

Danie de Villiers – Edilcon Construction

Joao Dos Santos – Archstone Construction

Ian Duncan – Kevin Bates Flooring & Carpeting

Werner Kroon – W F Kroon Projekte

Andrew MacFarlane – Damp King

Bongani Malazi – Ubuhlebethu Business Enterprise

James Martin – SA Paving

Michael Moloto – M2M Projects

Sello Mokawane – SNS Plumbing and Projects Specialist

Marie Sono – Thabi-Mari Property & Associated Services

Rose Ts’enase – Bashoeshoe Investments and Projects

Liana van der Walt – Edelweiss Glass & Aluminium

Hennie Wolfswinkel – H J Wolfswinkel (Pty) Ltd

At the meeting, Honorary Life Membership was bestowed on building industry stalwart and hardware retailing veteran, Peter Buchel.

Charl Venter, immediate past president of MBA North, described Buchel as one of the MBA’s “unsung heroes”. Venter says Buchel has, for many decades, played a leading role as an executive committee member of what is now MBA North, and its predecessors. “Peter has always shunned the limelight and has never served in a presidential capacity in our association, although he is eminently qualified for such a leadership post. But he has over many decades given what must be thousands of hours of his valuable time to the MBA cause and is truly a building industry icon in our region, well deserving of this special honour.”

Mohau Mphomela, Executive Director of MBA North stated: “Peter is still undoubtedly one of South Africa’s ironmongery gurus who has provided invaluable advice and equipment for the construction of thousands of buildings – large and small – all over the Southern African sub-continent. Peter has been a pillar of Master Building, and we felt it timeous that such passionate ‘behind-the-scenes’ support of the MBA cause should be recognised.”

Guest speaker, ABSA economist, Miyelani Maluleke, warned that the construction industry is facing an extremely challenging year. “With government spending on infrastructure slowing down, the private sector investment at least has remained buoyant,” said Maluleke. “All signs lead to a tough year ahead and the building industry may find itself following the example of civil engineering that is undergoing a process of ‘right-sizing’, while pursuing more lucrative contracts across the country’s borders. But be warned: choose your African destination carefully. The end of the commodities super cycle, and the drastic drop in the price of oil, have also left many other African countries in a very precarious economic situation,” he added.

Re-igniting our construction industry

Perhaps more important than the Budget speech was the meeting which Minister Pravin set up with the Business sector at the end of January…


Master Builders South Africa welcomes Minister Pravin Gordhan’s tightly focused, conservative and practical 2016 Budget tabled in Parliament in February.
At a time when the South African construction industry has its back to the wall there still remains a degree of hope, as, in the words of the Minister: “Our economic imperative is to ignite inclusive growth. The Budget tabled today is guided by the NDP. It is a budget for inclusive growth. It acknowledges that investment in infrastructure has to be enhanced and sustained.”
Although there is little specific reference or direction to the single most important aspect affecting our growth as a nation: the detailed roll-out of the long promised R870 billion for the National Development Plan (NDP) infrastructure programme, there is no doubt that if Government published a clear plan detailing the roll-out of these projects over the next three years this would re-ignite the construction sector and give vigour to growth in this and other sectors.
In the Budget speech reference was made to existing energy and water projects currently in progress, such as Medupi, Kusile and a range of water infrastructure projects, such as the Lesotho Highlands project; as well as to transport and educational infrastructure projects. And we acknowledge that some municipalities are indeed quietly rolling out projects piece-meal.
But this is not enough.

Perhaps more important than the Budget speech was the meeting which Minister Pravin set up with the Business sector at the end of January:

According to IOL Business News [Rene Vollgraaff, Renee Bonorchis and Loni Prinsloo] about 60 chief executive officers representing industries ranging from banking to mining met with Gordhan for two-and-a-half hours at Nedbank’s offices in Johannesburg at the end of January.
“The point was to recognise that there is a sense of crisis,” said co-ordinator of the meeting Jabu Mabuza, chairman of Telkom and president of Business Unity South Africa (BUSA). Executives “left that meeting feeling very positive and confident that as Government and Business, we are all looking at the same thing, we are all in agreement about the urgency and the crisis nature of the situation.”
Gordhan is seeking to restore confidence in an economy hit by sliding commodity prices, weak demand from China and policy mistakes by President Jacob Zuma toward the end of last year that pushed the rand to record lows.
This meeting resulted in the establishment of an interim committee comprising Government and Business, to help fix and stabilise the economy. The committee will be co-chaired by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and president Jabu Mabuza.

As the custodians of our construction industry, and representing the Business sector in this regard, we as Master Builders South Africa, the Master Builders Associations across the country, together with their members, should take note of the ongoing calls for Business to “get involved,” that the way forward is “not the responsibility of Government alone.”

As the construction arm of Business, we need to take the bull by the horns and find new ways to make the NDP work. To bring to bear all our expertise and leverage at every level, to work more closely with Government departments such as Public Works (DPW), the National Treasury, Human Settlement, Municipalities, industry bodies, and consulting engineering firms to seek out these projects and get them rolling in formats that can work – such as Public-Private sector Partnership (PPPs).

Can we make this happen? Indeed, we must.

Roy Mnisi, Executive Director, Master Builders South Africa

Roy Mnisi, Executive Director, Master Builders South Africa

Where to now with the NDP? – SAICE

Manglin Pillay, CEO of SAICE

Manglin Pillay, CEO of SAICE

The South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) looked forward to the 2016 State of the Nation address in the expectation that President Zuma would clarify the past five years’ announcements of more than R800 billion of infrastructure projects to be rolled out over three years. This had not transpired; in fact, there was no direct mention of infrastructure development or maintenance of existing infrastructure assets.

Manglin Pillay, CEO of SAICE, explains: ”In the global economy, the state of a nation’s physical infrastructure provides one of the best indicators of its likely prosperity. Profitable economic activity requires efficient and functioning systems of transport, energy, water and waste water management and social infrastructural services.” Insufficient focus on infrastructure development, maintenance and operation detracts from the fact that, according to Pillay, “The civil engineering and construction sector is the third highest employer of all sectors in South Africa.” Various indicators show that the civil engineering and construction industry is in depression, which is ironic, as it has the ability to attract international and national investment, can create job opportunities and, perhaps most importantly, can deliver much-needed services to communities – in line with the National Development Plan (NDP). The industry needs these projects to be rolled out.

Furthermore, civil engineering is the second scarcest skill in the country. Yet in the past year hundreds of civil engineering professionals have lost their jobs from some of our largest civil engineering and construction companies, and continue to do so. South Africa cannot afford to lose these highly skilled civil engineers because government cannot get its act together to roll out the envisaged NDP infrastructure projects.

If infrastructure development, which is at the heart of the NDP, is not mentioned, including unannounced municipal visits, spot checks of supply chain management processes, one wonders what will happen to the very large number of municipalities that do not even have any civil engineering practitioners in its employ? Who will take responsibility for the infrastructure in disrepair, communities struggling to get water, not even mentioning sanitation and waste management services? Who will be held accountable for tarred roads deteriorating into gravel roads? Who will be able to stop the increasing protests just to receive the basics as set out in our Constitution?

In September 2014 at the Presidential Local Government Summit, President Zuma said that he wanted an action plan for service delivery. SAICE salutes what government has done in providing water to more than 11 million people since 1994. The fact is, however, that many of those who have indeed received water, are now protesting because of a lack of, or inadequate service delivery due to infrastructure disrepair resulting from inadequate maintenance or inefficient construction practises.

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister at the time, Pravin Gordhan, urged municipalities to only hire engineers and technicians who will construct the best infrastructure developments that will last for more than 20 years. He added that municipalities should maintain infrastructure timeously and properly to enable state properties to stand the test of time. He also said, “Our motto should be: No service failure.” If the Auditor-General’s audits are anything to go by, service delivery is very close to being a national crisis.

At the first Civilution Congress in 2014, organised by the Civilution Forum, many of these issues were discussed in depth with among others, government representatives. At the event SAICE invited national and provincial ministers to engage with the Institution to find solutions. The next Civilution Congress will be held on 9 and 10 May 2016 at Gallagher Estate in Midrand.

In conclusion, this year’s SONA address does not encourage infrastructure investment, as government itself is not investing adequately in civil engineering infrastructure for the future. SAICE repeats its invitation to engage government to find solutions, especially regarding the re-professionalising of the Departments of Water and Sanitation, Public Works and the many municipalities in need of adequately qualified civil engineering practitioners, to ensure effective service delivery.

NMMU releases report on Prevention of the Collapse of Reinforced Concrete (RC) Structures

Preventing the collapse of reinforced concrete (RC) structures, support work and formwork during construction

John Smallwood, Professor of Construction Management, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

John Smallwood, Professor of Construction Management, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

A summary of a detailed report on an exploratory study by John Smallwood, Professor of Construction Management, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU).


The report is dedicated to the improvement of Health and Safety (H&S) performance in South African construction, and more specifically, preventing the collapse of reinforced concrete (RC) structures, support work and formwork.

The study was prompted by the continuing occurrence of “collapses” of such structures. The resultant report underscores the need for a proactive approach to addressing these phenomena.


A number of construction companies participated in the research. Data produced revealed that 42 / 55 (76.4%) factors are of near major to major / major importance in terms of preventing the collapse of RC structures during construction. A further 12 / 55 (21.8%) factors are between important to more than important / more than important, and only one is between less than important to important / important.

A further 30 factors are of near major to major / major importance in terms of realising optimum support work and formwork, and the integrity of structures under construction.

Factor analysis identified six groups of factors relative to “the importance of preventing the collapse of RC structures during construction;” and five groups of factors relative to “the importance of optimum support work and formwork and the integrity of structures under construction.”

The Tongaat mall collapse, November 2013, in which two people died and 29 were injured

The Tongaat mall collapse, November 2013, in which two people died and 29 were injured


The traditional three project parameters, namely quality, cost, and time are perceived by respondent organisations to be more important than H&S, thus, it can be concluded that the industry collectively is perpetuating the paradigm to the detriment of H&S.

Competencies, design, registration of built environment professionals, Hairs, supervision, quality management, H&S management, risk management, planning and H&S planning in various forms, integration of design and construction, and the construction work permit, are all important as clusters, or are individually relative to preventing the collapse of RC structures during construction. Similarly, given the importance of factors relative to optimum support work and formwork and the integrity of structures under construction, and more importantly the identification of five “groups” of factors, it can be concluded that the requisite “cocktail” of factors must be in place and to an optimum extent.

Quality management, competencies, supervision, a range of support work aspects, inspections, circumspect loading, H&S management, planning and H&S planning in various forms, and conformance to requirements, are also all important as clusters or are individually relative to optimum support work and formwork and the integrity of structures under construction.


Ultimately, conformance to requirements is the key, which includes, among other, municipal approval of building plans, and the construction work permit. However, a pre-requisite for conformance is that many of the requirements should be scientifically evolved and communicated.

In parallel, the required competencies must exist for the aforementioned to be achieved. Competencies in turn can only be assured through a formal registration process such as that required by the six South African built environment councils. Registration of contractors should interrogate H&S, quality, and risk management systems and practices. Clearly, contractors should also be also be pre-qualified in terms of H&S, quality, and risk management systems and practices. Ideally, multi-stakeholder project H&S, quality, and risk plans should be evolved. Design and construction must be integrated and the “grey areas” relative to achieving same must be addressed.

General construction management and H&S planning must be a hallmark of all projects. Management and supervision are critical, as both planning and execution are important.

Go here for the full report:

Draft Feedback Report Preventing the Collapse of RC Framed Structures & Support Work

Steel sector meltdown continues

The South African steel industry closes ranks to consolidate and develop innovative solutions as the steel crisis deepens

At a special workshop for its members held in Johannesburg in January, the Southern African Institute of Steel Construction (SAISC) outlined its consolidated approach and progress in dealing with the steel crisis. Working closely with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in recent months, the SAISC together with the DTI and other government and industry bodies, including SARS’ Customs and Excise division, aims to arrest the rampant deterioration of the crisis in the steel sector caused primarily by so-called dumping of cheap steel imports from China on the South African market – which has resulted in plummeting prices, dwindling demand, closure of some steel mills and widespread retrenchments.

In 2015 the crisis evolved into a full on meltdown as steel mills were forced to close and steel and metal companies began retrenching workers. Some steel fabricators are now in their third round of retrenchments.

In August 2015, reported that Scaw Metals Group chairman Ufikile Khumalo referred to the crisis as “unprecedented.” “The industry is seeing a crisis, I have never seen such a tough period in my history in the industry…media is talking about a job bloodbath, we are talking about a company bloodbath, especially in smaller companies. These companies are highly indebted and are battling to survive.”

In September 2015 ArcelorMittal SA announced the temporary closure of two of its steel mills, and is reviewing the future of its largest steel mill.

January 2016
Addressing some 150 SAISC members from around the country, Paolo Trinchero, CEO of the Southern African Institute of Steel Construction (SAISC), advised that significant progress had been made through ongoing discussions with the DTI to alleviate the crisis. “Working closely with the DTI, SAISC is taking a holistic approach on tariffs – which is a complex task indeed requiring a fine balance. And beware as Chinese exporters continue to market heavily,” warned Trinchero.
An important part of its collaboration with the DTI, SAISC is playing a key role in enforcement by training Customs officials to seek out and recognise inferior steel product imports which are subject to revised tariffs.

A statement released by the DTI in February reads:
“Government is working closely with all the stakeholders in the steel sector to secure agreement on a comprehensive package of measures to support South Africa’s primary steel production capabilities.

Following due process involving the International Trade Administration Council (ITAC), the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davies, has assented to tariff increases for three steel products. Investigations into another eight product lines have been finalised and await government approval.

It is of course extremely important that tariff protection measures for primary steel producers do not result in higher steel prices being ‘passed on’ to downstream, steel intensive manufacturing sectors. These sectors are labour intensive and any measures, which might erode the competitiveness of secondary steel intensive manufacturers, must be avoided. It is for this reason that government is very carefully weighing up the basket of measures under consideration and is consulting widely with all stakeholders, the downstream users included.

The Ministers of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davies and of Economic Development, Mr Ebrahim Patel and senior officials of both departments, have held extensive talks both with executives of ArcelorMittal South Africa (AMSA) as well as with senior executives of the company at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos.

In addition to a meeting held in October 2015 with all primary steel producers, downstream manufacturers, industry associations and labour, a further meeting will be convened by government in the near future to finalise the package of measures proposed by government. These measures are designed to secure the primary steel producers, safeguard downstream users and protect employment across the entire steel value chain.

Government is confident that agreement will be reached in this regard.

Once final agreement is reached an announcement setting out the package of measures to be adopted, in addition to those already implemented, will be made.”

Certainty in construction, mining and energy is essential
“Although there is too much supply and too little demand, there is still much that we can do in parallel with Government’s interventions,” continued Trinchero. “Stimulation of the local market is key.”

Referring to the National Development Programme (NDP), Trinchero emphasised that certainty in the construction, mining and energy sectors is absolutely essential. “Release smaller bites of the NDP,” he implored Government, “and localise supply. The entire supply chain from design, to manufacturing, supply and installation must be localised to support and stimulate not only our ailing steel industry, but the South African economy as a whole.”
Most importantly, Trinchero pointed out, is that municipalities in particular are now buying locally.

“Exports too are critical, and exchange rates are favourable,” he said, noting that some 200 000 tons of steel product was exported in 2014, and a somewhat lower yet still very significant figure in 2015. “As an industry we need to focus on accelerating our export drive with a view to doubling this figure!”

SAISC has also established “Team SA,” partnering with financial institutions to market South Africa heavily throughout Africa.

“A number of large steel heavy construction projects are in the offing for 2016,” said Trinchero in closing. “Both here at home as well as in the SADC, the DRC and Ethiopia. Innovation is the answer: as an industry we need to sharpen pencils, work smart, work hard, and be competitive”