KUALA LUMPUR (June 24): Of late, weather uncertainties have been resulting in frequent episodes of heavy rain accompanied by thunderstorms and flash floods which not only disrupt outdoor work but compromise the safety of workers as well.
Since the extreme weather phenomenon – which is linked to climate change – is here to stay according to climate experts, it is high time for employers to pay close attention to the safety of their at-risk workers.
Failure to do so may find them facing legal repercussions, said Department of Occupational Safety and Health (Dosh) deputy director-general (occupational safety) Mohd Anuar Embi.
Comply with safety SOP
He told Bernama to ensure their safety, employers and employees must stay abreast of changes in the weather and comply with the necessary standard operating procedure (SOP), as outlined in the regulations, guidelines and legislation related to occupational safety and health.
He also warned that action can be taken against employers who neglect the safety of their workers as provided for under Section 15 (1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994, which clearly states it is the duty of every employer to ensure the safety, health and welfare of all employees, including those in outdoor work environments such as construction sites.
Failure by an employer to comply with the Act will see them facing a fine of up to RM50,000 or a jail term of up to two years or both.
Mohd Anuar also said that under the recently amended Occupational Safety and Health Act (Occupational Safety and Health [Amendment] Act 2022), it is compulsory for every employer to conduct a risk assessment in relation to the safety and health risk posed to any person who may be affected by his job at the place of work.
“Those convicted of this offence (failure to conduct risk assessment) can be slapped with a fine of up to RM500,000 or jailed up to two years or both,” he said, adding that DOSH constantly focuses its enforcement activities on the construction sector to ensure the safety of the workers and the public.
Throughout last year, Dosh carried out a total of 16,707 site inspections nationwide and issued 327 compounds amounting to RM633,000. Another 52 cases were prosecuted in court, involving penalties totalling RM777,500.
Mohd Anuar added that Dosh is implementing several long-term measures to improve the level of occupational safety and health and reduce the number of worksite incidents including those caused by weather-related risks.
The measures include enacting and making improvements to laws related to the construction sector including the Occupational Safety and Health (Amendment) Act 2022 so that they remain relevant and are in line with current requirements.
He said Dosh also encouraged the application of Occupational Safety and Health in Construction Industry Management 2017 guidelines.
“These guidelines highlight the responsibilities of all parties, including the (project) owner, designer and builder or contractor, from the start of construction to the demolition stage in order to identify as well as control occupational safety and health risks and prevent any untoward incident.
“Efforts are also underway to upgrade these guidelines into mandatory requirements for all construction players,” he explained.
Commenting on a video that went viral in February this year showing a group of high-rise building maintenance workers stuck in a gondola that swayed violently after it was hit by strong winds, Mohd Anuar said his department has taken proactive steps to ensure such incidents do not happen again.
Among the steps taken are requiring employers to conduct a risk assessment at the workplace and take the necessary measures to prevent any unwanted incident. This is provided for under the Occupational Safety and Health (Amendment) Act 2022.
According to this Act, workers have the right to remove themselves from any imminent danger at the place of work, including during bad weather.
“If the worker has already informed his employer or representative that he has reasonable justification to believe there exists an imminent danger at his place of work, he has the right to remove himself from the place of work if the employer fails to take any action to remove the danger.
“ … and a worker who removes himself from danger is protected (under the amended Act) from undue consequences and discrimination,” he added.
Heed weather warnings
Meanwhile, Construction Industry Development Board Malaysia chief executive Datuk Ahmad ‘Asri Abdul Hamid said safety and health officers or construction site supervisors must always maintain a good level of preparedness to face any eventuality in the event of threats posed by bad weather at the worksite.
This will entail preparing risk management measures and developing the necessary SOP to ensure the safety of the workers and their work environment.
He said employers and employees must also be alert to changes in the weather and warnings issued by the authorities, including the Malaysian Meteorological Department.
“The (safety) officers and supervisors at construction sites must prepare hazard identification, risk assessment and risk control reports for their worksites.
“Currently, some of the elements linked to the impact of climate change have already been incorporated in training (programmes) related to the safety and health of construction workers. However, there is still room for improvement in terms of providing more comprehensive and specific information on risks posed by climate change,” said Ahmad ‘Asri.
Among the training programmes they are focusing on concerns the application of the guidelines and manual on flood- and landslide-resilient construction.
“We have also issued safety guidelines, ISO certificates and construction industry standards to be applied at construction and maintenance sites, which cover safety attire, safety equipment and work safety guidelines,” he added. — Bernama