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Contractors' duty to ensure safety at worksites

New Straits Time Online, 17 July 2016
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE - Chairman, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health

THOSE involved in the construction industry should realise the dire consequences of flouting safety guidelines and cutting corners, poor design, shoddy workmanship and inadequate supervision.

If adequate safety standards are set, and safety procedures and regulations are strictly adhered to, accidents and unnecessary loss of life and limbs can be avoided.

Reports of falling cranes at construction sites resulting in damage to residential homes and public property are matters of serious public concern.

Construction activities carried out without regard to the environment have resulted in environmental mishaps such as flooding and landslides.

Occupational safety and health (OSH) management must be practised at all levels — from top management to labourers. It is of paramount importance that everyone is involved in OSH.

In regard to the construction industry, developers have the responsibility to choose competent and safety-conscious contractors. During the tendering stage, it must be emphasised that the acceptance of low bidders should not be at the expense of safety and health.

The time has come for contractors who wish to bid for construction contracts to provide a safety policy statement, the hazard identification, risk assessment and risk control plan and information regarding their employees’ experience and safety training.

Although the authorities enact laws and enforce them, the responsibility for implementing a safety system at the construction site lies mainly with the main and sub-contractors. Those who create the risk and hazards are in a better position to manage them. Contractors should therefore be responsible to ensure that the workplace is safe and healthy.

Industries and employers must realise that four fundamental factors justify OSH management — corporate responsibility, social and moral obligation, good business sense and legal obligation. Effective OSH management not only reduces the risk to safety and health, but also ensures high returns and increased productivity.

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