Breach of safety SOP at MRT project site causing fatal accident of 3 workers

The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) is saddened by the fatal worksite accident that killed 3 Bangladeshi workers at the project site of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) as a result of a breach of safe work procedure as reported in the Star dated 20th August 2014 “Breach in work procedures”.

 CAP has time and again called for an immediate intervention by the Department of Safety and Health (DOSH) to prosecute the employers who neglect their statutory duty to ensure the safety of their employees.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 provides the legislative framework to promote, stimulate and encourage high standards of safety and health at work. Without any doubt, the DOSH is statutorily bound to ensure that the employers comply with the provisions in the OSHA particularly Section 15 of Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 which states that the employers have the duty to ensure, as far as practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of all its employees.

In this respect, Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid, Chief Executive Officer of MRT Corporation has issued a statement vide The Star dated 08th July 2014 that SOPs and regulations on safety have been introduced for all activities related to the MRT project, both on and away from the worksite. He had also affirmed that MRT Corp has made it a point to ensure enforcement of SOPs with sufficient supervision and checks on sites.

However, we have come to understand that there was no proper supervision at the worksite by the competent person at the time when the accident took place. We are concerned whether DOSH has done periodical checks at this project site and ensured that both the employer and employee have complied with the safety regulations.

Since fatalities resulting from the fall at the worksite are increasing, CAP calls upon DOSH and the relevant departments to immediately implement the standard for fall protection dealing with both human and equipment-related issues in protecting workers from fall hazards. For example, employers and employees need to do the following:
— Where protection is required, select fall protection systems appropriate for given situations.
— Use proper construction and installation of safety systems.
— Supervise employees properly.
— Use safe work procedures.
— Train workers in the proper selection, use, and maintenance of all protection systems.

Where the work to construct the parapet for the guide way is being carried out by the employees; for instance in the case of MRT Corp, employers are required to assess the workplace to determine if the walking/working surfaces on which employees are to work have the strength and structural integrity to safely support workers. Employees should not be permitted to work on those surfaces until it has been determined that the surfaces have the requisite strength and structural integrity to support the workers. Once employers have determined that the surface is safe for employees to work on, the employer must take remedial measures for the work operation if a fall hazard is present.

For example, if an employee is exposed to falling at the height of 38 metres, as reported in Sinar Harian dated 20th August 2014 in relation to the fatalities at MRT worksite, from an unprotected side or edge, the employer must select either a guardrail system, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system to protect the worker.

We are also curious as to whether there were any proper jacks to support excessive loads on the concrete structure while the parapet work for the guide way was being carried out by the employees. Jacks and vertical supports must be placed and positioned in such a manner that the loads do not exceed the rated capacity of the jacks.

CAP is also of the opinion that there should be a general requirement for the Standard Construction Loads and to make it mandatory that the Employers must not place construction loads; let it be human or construction equipments on a concrete structure or portion of a concrete structure unless the employer determines, based on information received from a person who is qualified in structural design, that the structure or portion of the structure is capable of supporting the intended loads. This requirement must be also determined by DOSH.

DOSH is duty bound to come out with the Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines on effective management of worker’s safety and health protection which is a decisive factor in reducing the extent and severity of work related fatalities and injuries.

These guidelines should comprise of four general elements that are critical to the development of a successful safety and health management program:
— management commitment and employee involvement,
— worksite analysis,
— hazard prevention and control, and
— safety and health training.

Based on the media reports, the CEO of MRT Corp has tendered his immediate resignation and assured that the full investigation would be carried out to know the exact cause for the fatalities.

CAP is of the stand that the CEO should also be prosecuted by the DOSH for the breach of Section 15 of Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 and failure to ensure the worksite is safe for its employees. This form of stern action would definitely be deterrent revelation to other irresponsible employers who disregard the safety aspect of its employees.

Press Statement, 21 August 2014