Department of Labour sets up bridge collapse inquiry

To take up to six months or more.
Neil McCartney/The Citizen

Construction group Murray and Roberts (M&R), along with three other companies, could find themselves being prosecuted this time next year for the pedestrian bridge that collapsed onto the M1 highway in Johannesburg earlier this month, killing two people and injuring 19 others. Although nine victims have been discharged, ten remain in hospital with three still in critical condition.

The Department of Labour (DoL) announced on Wednesday that it would set up a Section 32 Inquiry into the incident in accordance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The inquiry will look into whether all parties involved carried out their responsibilities and, if they are found to have been negligent, there is a possibility that the National Prosecuting Authority could take them to court.

On the day of the incident (October 14) M&R’s share price dropped sharply by 7.32% to R11.15 and, although the share has recovered slightly since then, it could be in for some tough times ahead if any evidence of negligence on its part comes to light.

M&R will be involved in the inquiry as the principal contractor, with the City of Johannesburg and the Johannesburg Development Agency as the clients and engineering firm Royal HaskoningDHV as the agent. Scaffolding manufacturer Form-scaff will appear as the supplier of material for the project.

Said DoL acting deputy director general Aggy Moiloa: “The formal inquiry will focus on, but is not limited to, the responsibility of the client in terms of construction regulations, the responsibility of the principal constructor in terms of the construction regulations and as an employer, and the responsibility of the agent on behalf of the client in terms of the same regulations.”

The department’s chief inspector Tibor Szana said that the provisional time frame for the inquiry was about six months and that, while someone had been identified to preside over the inquiry, their identity would be announced at a later stage.

“We are collecting evidence and there are many parties that will be involved throughout this formal inquiry,” said Szana. “At this stage we’re not pointing the finger at anyone (for having been negligent). The purpose is to gather evidence and that information will be presented to the NPA.”

M&R’s share price was down 0.99% on Wednesday, closing at R11.01.

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