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Comply with procedures at construction sites

New Straits Time Online, 30 Jun 2016
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE - Chairman, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health

TWO incidents involving uncovered holes at a construction site in the city and in a rural area should be a lesson to all relevant parties, such as contractors, local authorities and enforcement officials.

In the first incident in early May, a car skidded and plunged into an uncovered 15.4m-deep sewage hole in Petaling Jaya. The 86-year-old driver and a passenger suffered injuries and trauma but about two weeks later, the driver, Yong Chee Seng, died.

Doctors did not link Yong’s death to the manhole incident but the fact was that the tragic accident had occurred and resulted in Yong being hospitalised for treatment of his injuries. And it happened because of the contractor’s lackadaisical attention to safety measures and procedures at the worksite.

Another heartbreaking incident occurred last week when two boys, aged 9 and 6, drowned in a piling hole at a construction site in Felda Chini 5 in Pekan, Pahang.

In the first incident, the pit which was dug in the road for the laying of underground sewer pipes was not covered and the contractor only placed plastic barriers around the pit.

In the case at the Felda land scheme, the contractor did not appear to adhere to safety procedures at all, and did not cover the 1.5m-deep pit, which was filled with water, or place barricades around it.

In both cases, the accidents could have been avoided if the contractors had complied with safety procedures and measures. When construction, upgrading or repair works are halted temporarily, the contractor must cover the pit with a sturdy cover. Sufficient barriers made of durable materials should be placed around the pit and warning signs placed at a suitable distance.

Roadside constructions or repair works require additional security measures because they not only obstruct traffic flow but also create blind spots for motorists, motorcyclists and pedestrians.

It has become common practice in our country for contractors involved in construction projects, infrastructure development and upgrading or repairing of sewerage systems not to pay heed to public safety.

The surrounding areas of some construction sites are not well-lit and this can cause accidents for motorcyclists, motorists or pedestrians at night.

Some project developers or contractors only display public safety signages for a few months and do not replace worn-out or misplaced signages, even though the projects can take more than a year to complete. This should not happen because it is important that signages are positioned within a certain distance from the project site to warn the public to be cautious.

Engineers or site supervisors are responsible for ensuring that all workers at construction sites comply with public safety procedures.

There should also be general information signs at all worksites, including construction, infrastructure or sewerage repair and upgrading sites. These signs display details of the contractors’ undertaking and their contact details.

Meanwhile, departments responsible for issuing licences for repair works and construction in public space, the local authorities and relevant enforcement authorities should take stringent steps to protect the public from risks on or near work/construction sites.

Human lives should not be lost due to the negligence of those who do not comply with safety procedures. Something must be done to ensure that developers, building contractors and authorities monitoring construction works are aware of this fact and are held accountable for carrying out their responsibilities.

In less than four years, Malaysia is supposed to become a developed nation. As such, the mentality of our society must progress in line with the country’s economic achievements. We must discard the old mentality that disregards safety procedures at workplaces, including construction sites.

Cetak Emel