In the operational health and safety market, there is a common misunderstanding regarding the requirements for structures, particularly in terms of their maintenance and inspections. This misconception arises from the lack of clarity surrounding the competence of individuals involved in inspecting or assessing structures. The term “competent person” is often not fully understood in the context of the legal requirements that apply to structures.

Furthermore, there is confusion about the definition of a structure and what falls under the classification of a “structure.” This lack of clarity contributes to the overall misunderstanding surrounding the regulations and obligations related to structures in the operational health and safety market.

What is a structure?

The definition of a structure, as stated in the Construction Regulations of 7 February 2014, encompasses various elements. It includes buildings, steel or reinforced structures (excluding buildings), railway lines or sidings, bridges, water works, reservoirs, pipes or pipelines, cables, sewers, sewage works, fixed vessels, roads, drainage works, earthworks, dams, walls, masts, towers, tower cranes, bulk mixing plants, pylons, surface and underground tanks, earth retaining structures, and any other similar structure. Additionally, under this regulation, a structure can also refer to any fixed plant associated with construction work, such as installation, commissioning, decommissioning, or dismantling activities.

In accordance with the South African National Building Regulations, Part B, the term “structure” is defined as an organized combination of interconnected parts designed to provide a certain level of rigidity. It can also include construction works that possess such an arrangement.

In simpler terms, a structure can be understood as a combination of materials deliberately assembled to create a stable and rigid framework or construction.

Rational Design of Structures

The design lifespan of a building is subject to certain criteria. In terms of the structural system and non-accessible components, the minimum design life should not be less than 30 years. This includes elements that are not readily reachable or replaceable. However, for repairable or replaceable components and materials such as cladding, roofing materials, windows, and doors, the minimum design life is set at 15 years.

To ensure durability, the construction materials used in the structural systems must possess resistance or be made resistant to various factors. These factors include protection against insect and rodent attacks, abrasion caused by wind-blown sand, and corrosive damage from groundwater, rainwater, surface water, and other sources. Additionally, the materials should be able to withstand solar radiation and prevent condensation.

In order to maintain the building’s integrity and optimal functioning throughout its lifespan, proper maintenance and operations are essential. This includes regular inspections, repairs, and adherence to maintenance schedules to address any issues or potential hazards that may arise.

Maintenance & Operations

The owner of any building is legally obligated to ensure compliance with the relevant functional regulations outlined in SANS 10400 – Part B, H, J, K, and L. This includes maintaining the structural safety performance of the building, taking into account its behaviour under all reasonably expected actions. Additionally, measures must be implemented to prevent the penetration of rainwater and the passage of moisture into the building’s interior.

Furthermore, Section 8(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act No. 85 of 1993 imposes a duty on every employer to provide and maintain a safe working environment that does not pose risks to the health of their employees. The maintainability of a structure, as outlined in the National Building Regulations, aligns with the requirements set forth in Section 8 of the OHS Act. These regulations collectively emphasize the importance of ensuring the safety and well-being of occupants and employees within a building.

Structures & Inspections

According to the requirements outlined in the Construction Regulations, a competent person, as defined previously, is responsible for conducting regular inspections to ensure the safety and continued use of structures. For existing buildings, these inspections should be conducted annually, while for new buildings, inspections should take place every six months during the first two years. The competent person performing the structural inspection or assessment must have the necessary qualifications, training, and experience in various relevant areas.

These areas include the structural use of concrete (SANS 10100), safety aspects of handrailing and balustrading (SANS 10104), general procedures and loading for building design (SANS 10160), the structural use of steel (SANS 10162), the structural use of timber (SANS 10163), the structural use of masonry (SANS 10164), and any other applicable national codes, regulations, or by-laws. Compliance with these standards is necessary for building owners to fulfil the requirements of the OHS Act, Construction Regulation 11, and SANS 10400 – Part A. Annual structural inspections are crucial for building owners to maintain compliance.

It is important to note that individuals conducting the inspections must meet the criteria of competent persons, including qualifications, training, and experience. Building managers, operational managers, or maintenance managers who do not fulfil the definition of competent persons are not permitted to conduct these inspections.

The legislation mandating structural inspections serves the purpose of safeguarding the health, safety, and well-being of all individuals utilizing or residing in the structures. These inspections identify and mitigate risks that could have adverse effects on people, property, and the environment if left unaddressed.

Presented by: Shone Dirker

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