Why do MRT work site mishaps keep happening, proving NIOSH right that the safety aspect continues to be neglected?


With the 14th general election just months away from happening, Putrajaya gloats about a job well done vis-a-vis the infrastructure, zooming in on the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT).

In waxing lyrical of the MRT, the government subverts the truth, that of controversies surrounding the country’s construction sites.

National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) chairperson Lee Lam Thye had in January decried the increase in construction site accidents involving construction and crane operations, saying they projected safety in a poor light where the construction industry was concerned.

On Jan 13, a Bangladeshi worker died on the spot when the incomplete cement flooring beneath him gave way at the Tenaga Nasional Bhd substation, next to the Cochrane Mass Rapid Transit station in Kuala Lumpur.

In a New Straits Times letter to the editor the following day, Lee cited statistics from the Social Security Organisation which stated that 7,338 accidents were reported in the construction industry in 2016, compared with 4,330 cases in 2011, an increase of 69.47%.

“Based on the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) records, 106 deaths were reported in the construction industry last year compared with 88 in 2015.

In the first seven months of last year, 40 deaths were reported.

These statistics, especially those involving fatalities, are worrying as these were reported cases investigated by DOSH. “If we take into account unreported cases, the figures would be higher,” Lee then lamented.

The NIOSH chief’s anguish is certainly no ad-hoc reaction, given that in 2014 he told national news agency Bernama that a spate of unfortunate events involving the MRT would erode public confidence in the public transport operator.

“MRT Corp has to restore public confidence by taking full responsibility for the incident,” Lee said in 2014 reacting to the collapse of the concrete span at the MRT worksite in Kota Damansara on Aug 18.

Three Bangladeshi construction workers were crushed under 490 tonnes of concrete after the span in Kota Damansara collapsed at 8.30pm.

Initial investigations into the collapse of the concrete span showed that the contractors did not comply with standard operating procedures (SOP).

Accepting blame for MRT mishaps

DOSH deputy director-general Zabidi Md Adib then told Bernama that safety inspectors found no engineers or supervisors were present to supervise the installation of the parapet wall.

“The installation of the parapet wall should be supervised by qualified engineers to ensure that it is carried out according to procedures,” Zabidi had said.

A worried DOSH issued a “Stop Work Order” at the construction site pending complete investigation into the horrific incident.

The catastrophe also saw then MRT Corp chief executive officer Azhar Abdul Hamid tendering his resignation and not shying away from shouldering responsibility over the deadly site incident.

Azhar was appointed CEO of MRT Corp on Sept 1, 2011 after the government took over the project from Syarikat Prasarana Malaysia Bhd.

The Klang Valley MRT project is an ambitious undertaking to connect the Greater Kuala Lumpur area via a three-line rail transit network. The construction of its first line began 2011 and was completed in 2016.

Azhar and Lee’s bemoaning of safety at the MRT construction sites unfortunately fell on deaf ears as more accidents continued to take place.

In the latest MRT related incident on March 3, the partial collapse of a launching gantry at Work Package V203 on the MRT Sungai Buloh-Serdang-Putrajaya Line construction site at Jinjang left one Malaysian worker dead two others injured.

MMC Gamuda, the project delivery partner for the MRT SSP Line, launched an investigation with Mass Rapid Transit Corporation (MRT Corp).

Whilst a probe is a must, the troubling question is, why do MRT work site mishaps keep happening, proving NIOSH right that the safety aspect continues to be neglected?

Also, should Putrajaya believe credit is solely its in ensuring the success of the MRT, would the federal government then dare accept blame for the many lives lost in bringing the MRT to fruition?