Probe into KwaZulu-Natal Hospital fire
2 June 2009
A full scale occupational health and safety investigation is underway following yesterday's fire at Umhlanga Hospital, north of Durban which left two patients dead and 24 others including workers being treated for smoke inhalation. The probe aims at establishing the cause of the tragedy, including any possible negligence or flouting of occupational health and safety measures.
Labour Inspectors' preliminary findings indicate that a fire broke out at the Surgical 1 Ward on 1 June 2009, in the early hours of the morning. It was alleged during the initial inspection, that the fire possibly started in the linen room which is located within the Surgical 1 Ward. Reports also indicate that the incident involved 13 patients who were subsequently evacuated and treated for smoke inhalation. Two of these patients had died due to excessive smoke inhalation. A total of 13 staff members were also treated for smoke inhalation and were later discharged. No person was treated for burns.
While the investigation continues in earnest, the department awaits reports from the Safety Officer and the Safety Representatives at the workplace. A risk assessment document and fire evacuation procedures are still pending from the employer as well.
The functioning of fire warning systems, smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, safe evacuation procedures, hand held fire extinguishers at strategic locations, provision of emergency escapes and compliance with electrical installation regulations will be checked. The maintenance and implementation of all these procedures, systems and equipment will also be closely scrutinised. At this stage, the cause of the fire is still unclear.