MAPUTO, Mozambique’s General Inspectorate of Labour (IGT) has detected various violations of health and safety norms in the ongoing construction of a suspension bridge which will span the Bay of Maputo to link the city centre of the capital with the outlying neighbourhood of Catembe but has denied that an image circulating on social media of a man crushed in a building accident has anything to do with the work on the bridge.

On Tuesday, an IGT team began inspecting labour conditions on the bridge and found that the contractor, the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), was not providing its workers with basic protective equipment. The head of the inspection team, Ernestina Cherindza, said failure to provide workers with boots and gloves had led to injuries.

Workers’ unprotected feet had been damaged, and some had contracted minor burns on their hands during soldering work.

Workers were also forced to put in extra overtime, in violation of Mozambican labour laws, and leaving them inadequate time to rest.

Cherindza said this could be dangerous because this work requires great concentration, so workers need time to rest so that they can do their jobs with the necessary calm.

Cherindza said CRBC has been given a deadline to correct these anomalies which endanger the health of the 2,842 workers employed on the bridge project. The IGT will assist the company in drawing up a plan of shifts which will ensure that the workers receive the rest periods stipulated in the labour law. Workers without protective clothing should not be allowed to work on the bridge, added Cherindza.

The representative of Maputo-Sul, the Mozambican public company in charge of the bridge project, Basilio Nzunga, downplayed the ICT’s findings. He said there was no deliberate failure to provide workers with protective clothing, but there had been a breakdown in the supply chain.

Workers on the bridge should receive new protective equipment every six months but some of the materials wear out earlier than that, due to the nature of the work, and there are no replacements immediately available. Nzunga said the contractor will be informed so that the worn out equipment is immediately replaced.

As for the gruesome image circulating on social media, showing a man, supposedly a worker on the bridge, with his skull and much of his body crushed in a building accident, Cherindza said the image was a fake. No such accident had taken place during construction of the bridge, Cherindza said. We don’t know where the pictures come from, but they’re not from Mozambique, she added.