Thursday, 5 January 2017

How Safe Are The Giant Advertising Hoardings Erected Across Urban Ghana?

A massive steel frame for a giant advertising hoarding is being fabricated near where we live at McCarthy Hill, near Jayee University College.

Since I saw the giant steel frame being fabricated, I have pondered why the fabricators don't use aluminium substitutes instead, for the steel currently used in their work.

Obviously an aluminium structure that size will be lighter and presumably much safer perhaps.

I have also wondered whether or not any engineers from the Ga South District Assembly have ever been to inspect the work being done by the fabricators. Incidentally, it so happens that the fabrication work is actually being carried out near the local Assemblyman's house.

The cemented area the work is being carried out on, is in front of a shipping container that once served as a business services and communications centre that was closed years ago. It is in fact adjacent to the Assemblyman's house.

Since the giant steel frames are engineered structures that are quite heavy, one wonders whether the Advertisers Association of Ghana (AAG) collaborates with both the Ghana Institution of Engineers and the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), to set standards for those who fabricate and erect them.

The question is: Should the general public be worried about  super-sized advertising hoardings  that are erected near homes and businesses? What will happen to those who live  and work near such metal structures if an earthquake occurs? Are they all insured - and if not should the law not require that they are?

The public definitely needs to be informed about the dangers posed by  these giant structures.

No one should begrudge those who earn substantial sums regularly from such advertising hoardings - but the advertising companies and the District Assemblies that make money from them  must ensure that they are inherently safe in terms of their design as engineered structures.

The onsite fabrication process of the giant steel frame taking place near us is clearly an arduous and complicated task. It is neither for the fainthearted nor the financially-challenged.

It involves the mobilisation of mobile construction equipment such as a compressor, a generator, a welding machine, and skilled manpower.

And a mobile crane will obviously be needed to lift and erect the huge steel frame at the site acquired by the advertising company that has awarded the contract to the fabricators.

The question is: Since super-sized  advertising hoardings are potentially dangerous to both humans and vehicles, why does the permitting process not involve the consultation of  those who live and work near where they are erected - if that is not the case presently?

It is obvious that the said giant advertising hoarding frame,  once erected, could easily kill pedestrians and the occupants of any vehicles it falls onto, instantly, during a storm accompanied by strong winds.

Do those responsible for approving the erection of giant steel frames for super-sized  advertising hoardings, ensure that they are put up by the farbricators and the advertising companies that outsource their fabrication, bearing all safety precautions in mind - given their deadly and destructive potential should they ever be toppled by strong winds?

It doesn't bear thinking what would happen if one of these mounted steel hulks is blown down during a particularly windy day with gale-force winds in a crowded part of urban Ghana.

As it happens, our part of McCarthy Hill, which abuts Mendskrom has become a university suburb hosting  young university students from Regent's University College of Science and Technology and Jayee University College. Their precious and innocent lives must not be endangered needlessly by mammoth-sized street furniture such as super-sized steel-framed advertising hoardings.

One hopes that the next head of the relevant sector ministry in charge of District Assemblies, the ministry for local government and rural development, whenever she or he is confirmed by Parliament after nomination by the next President, will as soon as practicable set up a task force to undertake a nationwide audit of all super-sized advertising hoardings, to ensure that they will not pose a threat to human life and property should they be toppled  in extreme weather conditions.

As we all know extreme weather conditions have now unfortunately become the new normal weather in an age of global climate change.

We need to take the safety of the general public in built-up areas of our cities and towns a tad more seriously in this country. Street furniture, including giant advertising hoardings, erected on roadside pavements or near them, need to be designed to be safe structurally so that they never pose a danger to the public.

(And whiles we are on the subject of public safety, it ought to be pointed out that there is a need to take an  interest in, and be concerned about, the safety of sundry imported products sold to consumers in Ghana. Ghanaians must use public interest legal NGOs, such as the Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL),  to enforce their rights in the law courts when harmed by purchased imported products that turn out to be substandard or counterfeits. Some importers are literally getting away with murder in this country. But I digress.)

For now, the question is : How safe are the giant steel-framed super-sized advertising hoardings erected by advertising companies that one sees dotted across the landscape of urban areas as one drives on Ghana's urban roads? Food for thought.
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