PETALING JAYA: Construction workers can expect better safety at their worksites with a proposal for a huge increase in the fine for employers who fail to protect them from workplace risks and hazards.
Under proposed amendments to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) 1994, the maximum fine for the offence, which is currently RM50,000, will be raised, Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) director-general Omar Mat Piah told The Star.
Omar declined to reveal the exact figure for the new maximum penalty but said it would be a significant increase.
The amendments, which are set to be tabled in Parliament in March, will also hold project owners and designers responsible for construction safety and health alongside employers and main contractors.
This will be done by making the Guidelines on Occupational Safety and Health in Construction Industry (Management), or OSHCIM, mandatory under the Act.
The guidelines widen the number of stakeholders responsible for worker safety to include project owners and designers, but is currently voluntary and not mandatory.
Omar said his department aimed to make the OSHCIM Guidelines mandatory by introducing new regulation to replace the Factories and Machinery (Building Operations and Works of Engineering Construction) (Safety) Regulations 1986.
“The OSHA 1994 Act outlines general duties of the employers to ensure the safety and health of their employees and other person who may be affected by their work activities.
“The duties outlined are for the contractor who employ construction workers, but they are not very clear for the client and designer who are not physically involved in construction activities.
“Under the new amendments, the duties of developer and/or owner and designer of the construction project are further clarified in ensuring the safety, health and welfare of workers are secured during planning, design, construction and maintenance works,” said Omar.
He said the amendments took into account all parties in the construction industry, including developers, architects, engineers, planners and quantity surveyors.
“In future, developers or site owners will also have to ensure sufficient management arrangements and take safety precautions during the planning and designing stage.”
Omar said occupational safety and health issues are best solved as early as possible, preferably at the planning and design stages.
This section states that it is the duty of every employer and every self-employed person to ensure, so far as is practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of all his employees.
Omar said the Act needed to be amended as the current maximum penalty was too low.
The aim of the amendment is also to increase the commitment by employers to worker safety, clearly outlining their responsibilities and emphasising the importance of risk assessment.
A public consultation of the amendment to the Act was held on May 14, 2015, while the public was invited to submit comments from May 6 to 20 the same year.
“There were no objections raised during the consultation, except for the (low) penalty,” said Omar.