The Government must immediately set up a task force to investigate the causes of the frequent fatal incidents occurring on SUKE (Sungai Besi-Ulu Kelang Elevated) expressway recently and review the worksite safety guideline practice. However, the public has been left angry and alarmed as the affected site has been reopened with the threat of more hazards literally still hanging over the heads of thousands of road users, and the main contractor has not been held responsible for these frequent incidents.
Notwithstanding the short and vague statements given by the relevant authorities after the latest fatal incident, there is no assurance of any determined and committed actions to review and improve safety at the affected sites, to the point of being perceived as evading responsibility in the matter. The second fatal accident has claimed three lives and caused one serious injury this month. Such frequent construction site accidents is a clear indication that there are serious safety concerns. Has the Public Works Department (JKR) conducted a thorough investigation after the previous accidents? Is there any strict monitoring of the contractors involved in the highway project? If JKR is merely going through the motions, they must expect public condemnation for allowing worksite safety to be compromised.
In standard construction site procedures and guidelines, when a heavy object needs to be moved through an ongoing project site, the relevant sections and traffic lanes must be closed to ensure safety for all concerned. However, the fact is that even after the first incidents occurred on SUKE, work continued with heavy structures being moved without shutting down the affected lanes, ultimately leading to further mishaps.
Like most people, I am beyond perplexed by the authorities’ decision to order a thorough investigation into this project only after many lives have been sacrificed. From the first mishap, JKR should have started in-depth investigations into the contractors’ adherence to safety guidelines. They should not need several incidents to convince them that something needs to be done.
With construction sites such as SUKE being high-risk areas, the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) under the Ministry of Human Resources must also play its role to monitor these local worksites’ compliance to safety guidelines affecting all site workers and employees. What guarantees have been made to ensure workplace safety for the construction workers? After all, we must admit that there is a lack of safety awareness in our country. DOSH has the absolute responsibility and obligation to promote and inculcate this awareness in all workplaces, indoors and outdoors.
I also want to urge the Government to be more selective in appointing contractors for various projects. These projects are funded by the hard-earned money from taxpayers, including highway projects that serve various transportation hubs and there must be efforts made to ensure they do not worry the public. Disasters or not, our country is aiming to become a developed nation. But these worrying levels of safety at worksites have made us an international laughing stock.