Stadium collapse shows worker safety atrocious

Less than four years ago, 60 percent of the RM292 million ringgit Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium’s roof collapsed with damages between RM15 million to RM25 million. Fortunately, there were no casualties.

Now, catastrophe has struck the Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium again. This time with five workers injured, two critically. The Consumers' Association of Penang is appalled at the apparent lack of regard for safety by contractor and officials involved.

Terengganu state Infrastructure Development and Public Amenities Committee Chairperson Za’abar Mohd Adib.has been quoted as saying, “We did an integrity study before the roof repairs but the contractor failed to propose an accurate work method to repair the roof.”

He also said that based on initial investigations, the collapse was believed to be due to a weakness in the main roof structure after the removal of the middle framework.

In view of the direct danger to the workers who have become casualties of this careless oversight, we question how the workers were allowed to commence with the repair work when a proposal for an ‘accurate work method’ had yet to be approved.

Was there no progress report on the work by the contractor being monitored by consultants and engineers from the local authorities? What was the nature of the monitoring process and what were its findings? Was worker safety prioritised in the monitoring process by the professionals and authorities?

We also question how the removal of the middle framework which caused the roof structure to weaken prior to the repair work, was approved and by whom. Such a critical decision can only be made by qualified professionals after much deliberation over safety concerns.

Za’abar Mohd Adib also said that, “The contractor of the RM 1.7 million repair project will bear the losses incurred in the incident.”

The callousness displayed towards public and worker safety in this country has reached atrocious levels with every new disaster. And yet, there are hardly any changes in the attitudes of contractors, consultants and governmental officials towards public safety.

It is not enough that the contractor will bear the losses incurred. What is far more important is to ascertain who will take responsibility for the accident and for the workers who have been injured and the welfare of their families.

In 2009, S Subramaniam, the Human Resources Minister, had pledged to amend the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) 1994 to “ensure that the professionals will be more responsible and liable when it comes to safety requirements. Therefore, once the Act is amended, the professionals are accountable for the monitoring the process. So if anything goes wrong immediately the law will allow us to take action,’’ he said.

CAP called for the Amendment to the Act to be expedited in the interest of worker and public safety. We also called for the details of the findings of the investigation into the first near-tragedy and also this latest catastrophe to be made public via an independent commission of inquiry.

According to a Socso report, there were 34,376 industrial accidents in 2009 alone. The number of fatalities reported was 1,231. Knowing very well the standards of safety practiced by employers and authorities in the country, how many ‘professionals’ were held accountable and liable for these accidents and deaths?

Regardless of whether the Act has been amended, it is imperative that the contractor, engineers, consultants and the local authorities involved are held accountable and responsible for the avoidable accident which could have resulted in deaths.

Only with responsibility and accountability will worker safety improve in Malaysia.

This must be enforced by the Human Resources Ministry without delay.


SM MOHAMED IDRIS is president, Consumers Association of Penang.