By Muhammad Basir Roslan
KUALA LUMPUR: In July this year, a teacher Rosli Abdul Aziz died after he fell from the balcony of the first floor of a building at Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Batu Gajah in Kelantan.
The tragedy occurred while the 54-year-old mathematics teacher was inspecting the plumbing system in preparation for the school’s reopening on July 15.
Commenting on this incident, Senior Minister (Education) Dr Radzi Jidin said his ministry will hold discussions with all parties concerned to determine the standard operating procedures (SOPs) on school maintenance works carried out by teachers.
Another case reported by the media involved a factory worker from Sabah who sustained injuries after the machine he was handling exploded. Unfortunately for him, he was not offered any aid by his employer.
These two cases are just two of the numerous accidents at workplace which, more often than not, occur due to the employer’s failure to comply with occupational safety and health regulations.
The safety, health and welfare of workers in the blue- and white-collar employment sectors are secured by provisions in the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 (Osha) that comes under the purview of the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (Dosh) in the Ministry of Human Resources.
Malaysian Society for Occupational Safety and Health (MSOSH) vice-president II Zanuddin Kisman said under Section 15, subsection (1) of Osha, it is the general obligation of every employer and self-employed person to ensure — so far as is practicable —every aspect of safety, health and welfare of their employees.
The obligation also includes providing information, instruction and training as is necessary to ensure the employees’ safety and health at work, as provided for under subsection (2) (c) of the same section.
The provisions are clearly outlined in the Act but what Zanuddin finds frustrating is the nonchalant attitude of some employers who pay no heed to workplace safety and health issues.
Citing statistics released by Dosh, he told Bernama between January and June this year, the department instituted 85 prosecutions in relation to offences committed under Osha and five prosecutions in relation to the Factories and Machinery Act 1967, with penalties totalling RM1,284,700.
MSOSH also advises employers to regularly conduct occupational safety and health risk analyses for every sphere of work their employees are involved in to ensure their safety and reduce the risk of mishaps.
Zanuddin said Dosh’s National Occupational Accident and Disease Main Indicators report for 2019 revealed some shocking data which the authorities concerned must pay attention to.
According to the data, the accident rate for the 15,073,400-workforce nationwide was 2.71 per 1,000 workers and the death rate, 3.83 per 100,000 workers.
The report covered 10 employment sectors and the subjects taken into account involved workers who suffered permanent disability (PD), non-permanent disability (NPD) or died at the workplace.
“For PD and NPD cases in 2019, the manufacturing sector dominated the chart with 214 PD cases and 4,661 NPD cases. The construction sector recorded the highest number of fatalities with 84 cases,” said Zanuddin.
On the whole, the 10 sectors recorded 7,984 workplace accidents throughout 2019 while a total of 259 deaths were reported. PD and NPD cases totalled 281 and 7,444 respectively.
Urging employers to enhance workplace safety to reduce the risk of accidents, Zanuddin suggested that they appoint a coordinator to handle all issues related to the health and safety of workers.
“If they can afford to appoint a qualified occupational safety and health officer, then good. But if they can’t afford it, then they can appoint a coordinator from among their staff who have undergone training provided by DOSH.
“The coordinator will be tasked with overseeing the implementation of occupational safety and health rules. This is particularly suitable for small- and medium-sized companies,” he said.
Workers must comply too
Under Osha, said Zanuddin, employees too have a role to play to ensure their safety at the workplace.
According to Section 24, it is the duty of every employee to, among others, take reasonable care for the safety and health of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts; co-operate with his employer or any other person in the discharge of any duty; and wear or use at all times any protective equipment or clothing provided by the employer for the purpose of preventing risks to his safety and health.
On whether Osha needed any improvement, Zanuddin said it is important that industry players restructure occupational safety and health procedures and implement them in a more systematic manner.
He also called for more comprehensive enforcement action by Dosh and increase existing penalties against employers caught flouting Osha provisions.
Currently, the maximum fine for any offence committed under Osha is RM50,000 or two years imprisonment or both.
“The penalties are not stringent enough to deter employers … we’ve to get rid of the perception that the summonses are ‘affordable’,” he said, adding that the penalties should match that of the Environmental Quality Act 1974 which sets a maximum fine of RM500,000 or five years jail or both for offenders. − Bernama