Developer urged to compensate families of landslide victims

The Malaysian Trades Union Congress and the Association of Construction Occupational Safety and Health say this is developer’s primary obligation.
PETALING JAYA: The developer of an affordable housing condo project in Tanjung Bungah, Penang has been urged to compensate the families of Saturday’s landslide victims, as the blatant disregard for the workers’ safety was unacceptable.
The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) and the Association of Construction Occupational Safety and Health (ACOSH) made this call in a joint statement today.
MTUC secretary-general J Solomon and ACOSH president K Balakrishnan said, “Workers at all construction sites have no control over the safety measures implemented and leave their safety in the hands of those in charge of the projects.”
They said that for this reason alone, the developer needed to come forth with a monetary compensation plan that would adequately support their respective dependents in place of income lost.
The duo also said this should be the primary obligation of the developer regardless of the findings of the Penang State Commission of Inquiry (SCI), the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) and the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH).
MTUC and ACOSH were upset by the lack of oversight by governing bodies to ensure that health and safety measures were adhered to at construction sites where the risk of fatal and non-fatal accidents was fairly high.
Solomon and Balakrishnan said with a thriving construction industry in the country, there should already be an effective monitoring mechanism operational nationwide that would ensure recommended measures for the occupational safety and health (OSH) of workers were adhered to.
“The construction site was a deadly accident waiting to happen. They had only placed plastic sheets to protect and prevent the cut slopes from caving into the construction site.
“Based on photos and videos of the construction site and judging from its distance from the quarry, the frequency of its activities, the lack of OSH measures taken, this incident was highly predictable,” they said, adding that it was highly unlawful if an environmental impact assessment (EIA) was not carried out before work commenced at a hillslope site.
They explained that the presence of a safety officer round the clock was a regulatory requirement in any development worth more than RM20 million.
The duo said it was very evident that those involved were flouting DOSH recommendations and safety measures to retain the slope.
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) had also said that compensation for loss of life should be immediately made available to the families of the Penang landslide victims.
Last Saturday’s deadly landslide killed 11 people. It was initially reported that the construction site where the landslide occurred was on a hillslope.
However, authorities later clarified that the project was on flat land and the landslide had occurred from an adjacent slope.
The natural resources and environment ministry, which oversees the Department of Environment (DoE), claimed it had “rejected” the condo housing project, where the landslide occurred, as it was too close to a granite quarry.
However, Penang Island City Council (MBPP) Mayor Maimunah Mohd Sharif said that despite the DoE’s objection, the Mineral and Geoscience Department (JMG) had given the project the go-ahead on Dec 30, 2014.
JMG regulates quarries and deals with hillslope stability-related matters, Maimunah said.
Today, the Penang government announced the proposed setting-up of the SCI on the landslide.
In a nutshell, the SCI will determine what caused the temporary worksite slope to collapse and decide if it was a worksite accident, among others.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the SCI had three months to present their findings and complete a report.
“I will present this proposal to Governor Abdul Rahman Abbas for his assent and will later gazette it. The commencement date will be made known later,” he had said in a press conference in Komtar.
Solomon and Balakrishnan said the construction industry charted the highest number of fatalities last year with 91 deaths and DOSH needed to grow its manpower to beef up its onsite inspections at a higher frequency.
They explained that the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) 1994 allowed for contractors to be self-regulated but this had not reduced the number of accidents occurring in construction sites.
“Therefore, all relevant authorities, including the DOSH, DOE, CIDB and local authorities need to implement stringent guidelines for developers and contractors to comply with, to avoid similar eventualities.”
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