Trade union Solidarity says it supports State-owned power utility Eskom's investigation following an explosion at Unit 4 of the Medupi coal-fired power station, in Lephalale, on August 8.
Eskom had confirmed on August 9 that the unit generator had been severely damaged in the explosion, which occurred during the displacement of hydrogen with carbon dioxide and air, respectively, for the purposes of finding an external leak.
The utility noted that, while performing this activity, air was introduced into the generator at a point where hydrogen was still present in the generator at sufficient quantities to create an explosive mixture, which ignited and resulted in the explosion.
No injuries were sustained, but Eskom placed the employees who were responsible for managing and executing this work under precautionary suspension, pending the conclusion of a major event investigation.
Solidarity on August 10 said it would represent its members who have been suspended.
“We are currently compiling motivational documentation to provide reasons why our members should not be suspended. Regarding the statement that sabotage was committed, it is highly unlikely that employees would risk their jobs and especially their lives to cause an explosion,” said Solidarity labour relations deputy CE Deon Reyneke.
“It is a pity that there is financial damage and, of course, damage to the power plant, but Eskom must not lose sight of the fact that human error is a reality when tasks are physically done by hand. We trust and believe that the investigation will prove the innocence of our members.
“It is important to realise that no person is implicated by the investigation yet and that the main purpose of the investigation is to find the cause of the accident, and that it does not necessarily mean there is a guilty party. Employees should, therefore, not be treated as guilty prematurely and without evidence.
“We support Eskom’s decision to investigate the explosion and have advised our members to cooperate fully with the investigation. We will also represent them during the process. The explosion was a major shock to us and our members that were on duty at the plant. Solidarity is grateful that there was no loss of life,” Reyneke concluded.