PSM is outraged at the frequency of fatal accidents in the construction sector and demands that the government take immediate action to address this unacceptable state of affairs.
Towards the end of February 2015, three workers lost their lives, two of them at a construction site in Temoh, near Tapah. Two workers M Abu Talib, 30, and Iqbal Hossain, 32 were buried alive when soil tumbled down on them when they were working in a pit on 26 February.
The next day another worksite accident at the Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) Semantan portal construction site along Jalan Duta claimed the life of 40-year-old Rijaul Abdul Goni after seven steel bars weighing 40kg each fell on him and a co-worker.
It needs to be recalled that for the MRT, this is the second fatal accident in six months, the last one resulting in the death of three workers – Mohamad Faruk Khan, 38, Mohammad Alauddin Mollik, 34, and Mohammad Elahi Hossain, 27 – who were killed when a portion of the span of the MRT guideway dislodged itself and fell to the ground.
Department of Occupational Safety and Health (Dosh) statistics up to December 2013 reveal that fatal accidents in the construction sector are highest and have been constantly high from 2007 to 2013.
Dosh has concluded that fatal accidents at construction sites or newly completed buildings are mainly due to poor construction structures. A Dosh official has said that about 80 per cent of fatalities are due to weaknesses in the implementation of occupational safety and health management policy.
All this simply means that most of the deaths and severe injuries are needless and could have been avoided. Many of the young men who perished would still be alive, working and remitting money to their expectant families.
An academic paper on occupational accidents actually links the high incidence of fatalities in the construction sector to the low priority given by employers of the mainly foreign labour-dominated construction industry to the occupational safety and health of their workers.
The government must view this unnecessary loss of lives seriously and take immediate action against delinquent employers. The public must also be told what action was taken against MRT Corp over its last fatal accident last year and why its action failed to deter a similar incident on 27 February 2015.
The government must also review the provisions of the outdated Workmen’s Compensation Act 1952, which pays out to dependent families of migrant workers the princely sum of RM18,000 in the case of death. That is really criminal.
Rani Rasiah is a central committee member of Parti Sosialis Malaysia and head of its migrant desk.