by AFIQ AZIZ / pic by ARIF KARTONO
IT IS high time for professionals from independent parties to be involved in probes into incidents involving the Sungai Besi-Ulu Kelang Elevated Expressway (SUKE) to provide better transparency and accountability to the public.
According to the Malaysian Society for Occupational Safety and Health (MSOSH), the responsible parties for the SUKE project should have learned its lesson from three incidents that took place at the construction site within six months.
Its VP Mohamad Aliasman Morshidi said projects like SUKE, spanning 59km roadways with a RM5.3 billion construction cost, should have a higher compliance rate compared to smaller-scale projects.
“But this case is unique. Usually, budgets for safety for this kind of project would have a higher compliance rate, but we have heard three incidents involving this project too regularly.
“The question is, what happened to the previous investigation reports? Were the reports made just to complete the investigation papers and procedures but did not address the core issues?
“I believe it is high time to involve independent bodies and professionals to be part of the investigators in producing the report of yesterday’s incident,” Mohaman Aliasman told The Malaysian Reserve in a phone interview yesterday.
Three Chinese workers at the SUKE construction site in Alam Damai, Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, were killed in the latest incident yesterday morning, after one component of the crane fell from the elevated highway.
It also caused one driver under the construction site to be severely injured by the crane component, the project owner Projek Lintasan Sungai Besi-Ulu Kelang Sdn Bhd said in a statement.
More than two weeks ago, an overloaded trailer hit scaffolding that belonged to the SUKE project, resulting in two deaths as a bridge near the scaffolding collapsed on a passing van with five people inside it.
Last September, a woman narrowly escaped death when a piece of parapet wall from the structure fell on her Proton Saga.
The incident happened less than 5km from yesterday’s site.
Subsequently, the authority announced in November that the investigation paper has been completed and penalties have been dished out to the main contractor and subcontractor of the project, with both firms fined a total of RM180,000.
Construction Industry and Development Board (CIDB) said the contractors have failed to follow the correct standard operating procedure and hired a non-accredited supervisor at the site.
However, Mohaman Aliasman said a more transparent approach is needed to investigate accidents happening at the SUKE construction site.
Citing practices in advanced countries like the UK, Australia and Singapore, he said Malaysia should start to implement this instead of allowing the probing centred around government bodies.
The public needs to know and be presented with the facts of the investigation which directly impact their lives and livelihood as road users.
“Especially when it comes to high-status projects which involve public interest, in particular, their safety.
“To make this happen, the minister can use his power to appoint a chairman of the investigation committee, comprising industry players and independent bodies,” said the safety professional.
Other than MSOSH, Mohaman Aliasman said other professional bodies like Board of Engineers Malaysia, Board of Architects Malaysia and Quantity Surveyors Board should be among the competent groups that can be part of the investigation process.
Currently, government departments involved in such investigations are CIDB, Works Department (JKR), Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH).
“With the independent bodies, it can give better assurance to the people that the investigation is transparent, and free from being politicised or involving any conflict of interest.
“If we look at it now, the project belongs to the JKR so this raises the issue of conflict of interest. Would it produce a report to mitigate further incidents from happening again? To do this we need to find the root cause and it is better to have an independent body to carry out the investigation,” said Mohaman Aliasman.
“Furthermore, those questioned first should be board members of the project owners, then it goes down to the project managers and contractors. However, now we see the process is bottom-up and rarely we see the directors’ level being held accountable,” he added.
Earlier this month, Alliance for Safety chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye also called for the probe result to be made public as it involves public interest.
Meanwhile, in a statement, BWI Malaysia Liaison Council concurred that the investigation of accidents related to the SUKE construction must be focused on preventive measures.
“There have been far too many accidents involving construction sites these past few months. This is the second incident involving SUKE. We need the authorities to investigate further to see if there was a lax of taking safety precautions by the concerned parties,” said the spokesperson Nor Azlan Yaakob.
Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof said that negligence is part of the reason for the latest mishap, as the road was not closed to carry out the crane’s component removal procedure.
“In the implementation of such a project, if, for example, you want to move the gantry launcher, the road needs to be closed. Once the structure is safely (moved), only then (you) reopen the route.
“But I do not know why this one was not complied with,” Fadillah said on his official Facebook page after visiting the site.
He added that the Malaysian Highway Authority, CIDB, DOSH and the local authority will probe the accident and he assured that firm action will be taken.
At the moment, the affected road will be closed to the public.
Meanwhile, CIDB proposed for the affected road at Alam Damai to be partly or fully diverted to mitigate risks at construction sites on road users.
“The contractor should be more sensitive and should implement various methods of construction that can ensure the safety of the public,” CIDB said.
This includes traffic diversion or complete road closure during the construction phase.
“Diversion of traffic flow not only possibly eliminates the risk of danger to road users, in fact, but it is also maximising usable space for construction and speeding up project implementation,” it added.
Read our previous report here