Consumers Association of Penang

Giving voice to the little people...since 1970

Another Construction Site Accident Due to the Usage of Poor Temporary Structures

Such shock and disappointment we feel that another building under construction has had one of its floors collapse. Just like the incident in Alor Gajah 2 months ago, the temporary structure holding up the floors (that had not yet set) was not strong enough. It was reported that weak recycled items were used as the temporary structure. Why did the contractor decide this was the best way to go?
Here are some of CAP’s theories:

· Cost cutting: Using cheap materials in places they think no one will notice

· Rushing the job: Contractor decided they should just grab whatever to hold up the floors instead of ordering and waiting for proper temporary structures to be shipped to their site.

· Treat workers as expendable: Do not mind putting the lives of their workers in danger because if anything happens they can always “replace” them.

CAP would once more like to stress on the importance of safety at the construction site. Just because the majority of construction workers are foreigners who have come here to do this menial job (that locals are too picky to do), does not mean that their lives are worth any less than yours or mine. When contractors allow their worksites to become dangerous, they are showing that they do not care if their workers die – maybe they are governed by some sort of prejudice, we will never know. However, what we are sure of is that these people should not be given the privilege and responsibility of being in charge of anyone’s lives. So why are these contractors still in operation?

After the incident in Alor Gajah on 23rd June, 2015, the Human Resource Minister, Datuk Seri Richard Riot Jaem mentioned that 92.5% of construction sites in the country do not comply with specification set by the Department of Safety and Health (DOSH) and that 2797 notices had been issued, 72 compound imposed and 63 cases taken to court. A news article on that came out on 13th August, 2015 stated that DOSH has been conducting spot-checks all over the country and they will not compromise with errant contractors. This begs the question then of how this incident happened at all.

What’s more, what is the result of those 63 cases taken to court? Has anyone actually done a study on the effectiveness of issuing notice and imposing compounds? Does it have any effect on the attitude and subsequently the behaviour of contractors towards their workers and worksite safety?

The bottom line is that every time we seem to have reached that point of “enough is enough”, some other disaster happens. It is time for a trend change and the change has to start with everyone in the building industry, the contractors, architects and developers and the relevant government bodies like DOSH, the Housing Ministry and the local council of each state. We ask that the ministry set up a special committee to enquire into the ineffectiveness of safety laws and enforcement at construction sites.

 

 

Letter to the press, 14 August 2015