MEF: Tighten enforcement at construction sites

Vaccination for construction workers must also be ramped up to boost immunity among them, says Syed Hussain


MALAYSIAN employers have asked the government and agencies to target construction sites for enforcement and vaccination as Covid-19 numbers skyrocket nationwide.

The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) said tighter enforcement and surveillance of these sites, including controlling movement of workers to and from accommodations, must be done to curb infections among these vulnerable workers.

MEF president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husma said all agencies that deal with construction workers should work in concert to curb infections at construction sites.

“Issues and challenges faced by the construction industry in curbing the spread of Covid-19 infection include compliance of strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) at the construction sites, workers accommodations and their movement from one site to another.

“With the current spike in cases at construction sites, the relevant authorities should increase site monitoring and inspection across the country through the interagency construction site enforcement committee.

“Employers should implement the SOPs strictly and provide accommodations in accordance with the standard as specified by Act 446 to eliminate the outbreak of Covid-19 cases at the worksites,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

Construction sites have been notorious for contributing to Covid infections. The Damanlela site in Kuala Lumpur (KL) alone contributed 630 covid cases on July 6, about a third of the 1,550 KL cases reported on that day.

According to Health DG Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, the Damanlela site cluster had spread to six generations.

Recently, an outbreak involving construction workers in KL was detected and was the largest out of the 30 new clusters identified that day.

Syed Hussain said while enforcement is vital to slow infections, vaccination for construction workers must also be ramped up to boost immunity among them.

“The construction industry is badly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and faces challenges in implementing new health and safety SOPs, restricted working hours (and) delay in the supply chain, resulting in disruption to project completions.

“Such disruptions hamper the ability of smaller subcontractors to fully meet their obligations to curb the spread of Covid-19 at the construction sites.”

Commenting on the current vaccination programme for the industry, he said the allocation under the Construction Industry Vaccination Programme (CIVac) for only 40,000 workers in Phase 1 and 100,000 workers in Phase 2 is inadequate in view of the current workforce of about 1.4 million in the construction sector.

“More allocation is needed with the increased rollout of the vaccination process for workers in the construction industry.

“On top of that, all contractors must adhere strictly to the SOPs to maintain their operations, keep their workers safe and sites open.

“Errant contractors will risk their sites being shut down, most likely for an extended period which will be an additional cost to be shouldered,” he said, adding that the current fines in place are already stiff enough to ensure contractors follow the SOPs strictly.

CIVac was introduced to expedite vaccination for industry players and workers in six zones — central, north, south and east Peninsula, alongside Sabah and Sarawak.

Kicked off earlier this month, CIVac will also be complementing the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme in vaccinating contractors, developers, consultants, concessionaires and suppliers within the construction industry to receive their vaccines at selected locations.