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When accidents befall the builders

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Accidents and occupational injuries can be prevented if and when safety and health procedures are adhered to at the workplace, says Mustafa K Anuar.

In a lucrative industry such as construction, a sector which is moving rapidly in tandem with the country’s fast pace of development and urbanisation, workplace accidents demand attention and swift action from industry players and the authorities.

This is because accidents in this sector not only delay construction projects and bump up their overall costs but worse, can also result in deaths as well as serious injuries among workers and people in the vicinity.

The recent accident that occurred in Taman Desa, where a portion of a 35-storey condominium collapsed and injured two workers, has caused deep concern among nearby residents.

Their concern is not only triggered by the fear that the collapse might be due to the building’s structural weaknesses but also because they claimed there had been more than 90 minor incidents on the site – including falling objects and debris – since construction started in 2017.

In January last year, a crane fell in the area, partially damaging a unit in a neighbouring condominium.

Given the gravity of the issue, it is understandable that the Taman Desa residents have insisted that the Ministry of Federal Territories makes public the findings of the investigation into the latest incident.

In fact, Malaysians, particularly those who are concerned about construction companies adhering to high standards in construction regime and worker safety, would also like to know what went wrong with this condominium project.

Other accidents have happened elsewhere in Kuala Lumpur and other parts of the country over the years that should make us sit up and take notice, such as the one in Persiaran Stonor last year when a worker was injured after a crane he was operating collapsed at a construction site.

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As it is, the statistics on accidents in the construction sector are alarming. Last year, until October, the Occupational Safety and Health Department received reports of 72 deaths in the construction sector, the highest among all sectors, and 190 accidents resulting in non-permanent disability and 13, in permanent disability.

It is possible that these figures could be higher if unreported accident cases are taken into consideration.

Obviously, cases of death or permanent disability of construction workers inflict unbearable pain and loss on their families and loved ones. Alas, their lives – and this includes those of migrant workers – are no cheaper than ours.

We must be mindful that the many buildings that have filled our landscape could not have existed had it not been for the hard work of construction workers who labour under the scorching sun.

This points to a need for the construction sector to reappraise its position regarding work safety and to ascertain whether it has done enough to ensure workers’ safety in construction sites.

Accidents and occupational injuries can be prevented if and when safety and health procedures are adhered to at the workplace. Vital equipment such as cranes and scaffolds must be regularly inspected to ensure the safety of construction workers and passers-by.

The relevant authorities should also be mindful that a construction project should not be given approval if it results in overdevelopment of a particular residential area, which, in turn, could pose safety hazards and unnecessary distress to nearby existing residents.

The health and safety of workers should not be reduced to a mere banner at the construction sites.

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Source: the Malaysian Insight

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