Retired engineer tells investigation how flawed wall design sealed fate of Denel workers


Cape Town – The faulty design of the concrete wall of the N16 building where the fatal 2018 explosion at the Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) in Cape Town occurred, ensured that the wall had no chance when the explosion took place. is produced.

Retired civil engineer and structural engineering specialist Stephan Lapage testified during the investigation into the explosion, which left eight people dead.

Lapage was commissioned by the Department of Labor’s chief explosives inspector, Rudzani Ramabulana, to report on the effects of the explosion at RDM’s propulsion operations building, the N16 Somerset West plant.

The explosion occurred during operations and destroyed the entire building and the immediately surrounding blast walls.

The building where the explosion took place was used to mix large volumes of propellant from smaller sublots. At the time of the incident, single base propellant sublots were mixed into a homogeneous final batch.

Lapage said lessons from the disaster included the fact that the mere presence of a concrete wall was not necessarily good protection.

“In the N16, the two walls gave a false sense of security. These walls had been designed and reinforced, probably by someone who was not even a qualified engineer. The people who designed these walls were truly amateurs.

“But that was often the case back then, because they were building to the best of their knowledge at the time,” said Lapage.

Representing RDM, attorney Mike Hellens pointed out that the buildings had been cleared by Department of Labor inspectors acting as regulatory authority.

The penultimate witness to Friday’s inquest was a former CSIR physicist with 38 years of explosives industry expertise, Frikkie Mostert.

Mostert collaborated with Izak Snyman on the explosion investigation and performed a simulation to see what could have happened.

Meanwhile, concluding the session, inquiry chair Mphumzi Dyulete said a third round of sessions would be announced at a later date.

He said it was vital for the investigation to hear testimony from various witnesses before drafting a recommendations report to be submitted by the department’s provincial chief inspector to the National Prosecution Authority.

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