11,000 inspections carried out last year to ensure safety at construction sites, says DOSH

An Indonesian couple, working as construction workers, were killed when a building collapsed near the Gombak LRT station on May 23.

PETALING JAYA: The Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) has been increasing its inspections of worksites to reduce fatalities at construction sites.

In addition, existing laws are to be tightened and fines increased to ensure greater safety.

DOSH director-general Omar Mat Piah, in a statement today, said his department conducted 10,917 construction site inspections last year.

Based on that, 9,429 notices were issued, 740 offences were compounded and 113 cases were prosecuted in court for various safety and health offences.

He was responding to a statement by the Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) yesterday that questioned DOSH’s relevance as an enforcement body.

CAP said it was shocking that 711 workers were killed on the job in 2017, with 183 of these fatalities occurring at construction sites.

It said in the latest worksite incident, an Indonesian couple was killed and three others injured when a multi-storey car park under construction near the Gombak LRT station on Jalan Melati collapsed on May 23.

Omar said this particular incident was caused by a combination of a few factors, including the quality of material, workmanship and the construction workers.

“The incident occurred due to permanent structure failure and nobody was working at the time of incident. Besides that, there was temporary substandard workers’ quarters built at the construction site.

“Based on current legal requirements that govern the construction industry, these aspects do not come directly under DOSH’s jurisdiction.”

Omar said the construction industry is governed by several stakeholders, including government agencies, professional bodies, and associations representing the employers and employees.

“Each of these stakeholders has an important role to play in enhancing the quality, health, safety, competitiveness as well as image of the industry.”

He said the majority of workers in the construction industry are foreigners and they normally work under intense pressure to complete the project on time.

“It is not easy to change the attitude and perception of occupational safety and health at these construction sites.

“Human behaviour is difficult to predict because human beings are imperfect and often make bad choices.

“The industry knows it would suffer a monetary loss if their workers are injured. However, some employers remain adamant not to follow the law in protecting their workers.

“The cost to comply with occupational safety and health requirement is high.”

Increasing fines, greater accountability

Omar said the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) 1994 is going to be amended soon to increase penalties for non-compliance by offenders.

Section 15 of the OSHA 1994 states that it shall be the duty of every employer, and every self-employed person, to ensure, as far as is practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of all his employees.

Omar said increasing the fine for employers will ensure better safety at worksites.

The proposed amendments to OSHA 1994 will affect the construction industry drastically, Omar said.

In the current situation, only contractors are held liable for any untoward incidents on-site and consultants who are involved in its structural design do not consider the risks that have to be managed by the contractors, when undertaking the construction work.

With the introduction of Occupational Safety and Health in Construction Industry Management (Oshcim) provisions, all stakeholders in a project – from conception to completion – will share the responsibility for ensuring the health and safety of the entire project life cycle, Omar said.

“In fact, under Oshcim, the top entities in the value chain, such as the client or project owner, will be held ultimately responsible as the project originators.”

Omar said DOSH takes CAP’s opinion and recommendations positively as part of continuous improvement of safety of workers.

He hoped all the parties involved, including the owner, designer and contractor, professional bodies, training institutions, NGOs and other relevant agencies, would work together to ensure safety in the construction industry.