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The total workforce in Malaysia is about 10.9 million out of a total population of 27.17 million (March 2011).

Under Malaysia’s OSH legislative framework, all workers including foreign workers have an equal right and opportunity to work in a safe and healthy workplace.

However, this is not the case with regards to compensation for occupational hazards and injuries.

Migrant workers are covered by the Workmen’s Compensation Act 1952, while Malaysian workers are covered by a system known as the Social Security Organization Coverage Scheme, which is enforced under the Employees’ Social Security Act 1969.

Improving occupational health and safety in the Malaysian construction industry is not an easy task despite adequate safety legislation and regulative institutions. Ultimately, as pointed out by Mohamed (1999), a zero-accident culture can only prevail if contractors are committed to realizing fundamental change in the industry.

The building operations and works of engineering construction industries in Malaysia have made tremendous progress in recent years and the increase in their activities have affected the general public’s safety and health.

Construction sites create a risk not only for the construction worker, but also for the public who move around the site or who may live adjoins them.

The Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) and other government agencies have regulations that lay down the legal requirements to ensure the safety and health of not only the workers at the place of work but also the public as well.

This guideline applies to all place of work in building operation and work of engineering construction activity in Malaysia covered by the Occupational Safety And Health Act 1994 (Act 514), the Factories And Machinery Act 1967 (Act 139), and all the regulations made there under. It is designed to serve as a handy reference and to be read together with the above mentioned legislations and other industry codes of practice.

The notion of safety culture is very much akin to the Socio-Technical Systems Approach (STSA) and Schein’s conceptualisation of organisational culture (Wilpert 2001). The socio-technical systems are dependent upon the interaction of technical, human, social, organisational, managerial and environmental elements that may be singular or collective co-contributors to incidents. In response to this, organisations have sought to formalize these efforts into cultures that they are aligning to their organisational culture.

Culture, which incorporates vision, values, attitudes, mission, purpose and goals, influences the environment as it results in, and reflects commitment to, occupational safety and health (Smallwood 1996). Ismail (2004) has gathered from literature, and concluded, that it is reflected by incorporating safety values in the mission, vision, policies and goals of the organisation.

Time, quantity and quality of time and resources (human, financial, physical) devoted to the stated policies with the participation and decision making on all activities that give an impact on safety matters.

It is noted that leadership can be a role model for safety exercises when a strong beliefs that safety is his/her responsibility while the ability to demonstrate an enduring, positive attitude toward safety, even in times of fiscal austerity, and to actively promote safety in a consistent manner across all levels within the organisation also a factor.

Davis and Tomasin’s study [A.R. Hamid, W.Z. Yusuf, and B. Singh, “Hazards at Construction Sites,” In the Proceedings of 5th Asia-Pacific Structural Engineering and Construction Conference (APSEC 2003), 2003.] stated that workers on site are usually exposed to the risk of physical injury or physical injury hazard in which some of the agents to these hazards are normally in the usage of equipments such as conditions of scaffolds, power access equipments, ladder, excavation and so forth.  Top five categories of fatalities in the construction industry namely falls, electrocutions, vehicle rollover, personnel run over by vehicle and excavation cave-ins [C.R. Asfahl, Industrial Safety and Health Management, 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2004.] (Abdullah and Chai, 2011).

During a study conducted by Perttula, Merjama, Kiurula and Laitinen in the context of Finland, they discovered the highest recorded type of accident is overexertion followed by falling or collapsing objects, falling from height, injury caused by equipments and so forth [P. Perttula, J. Merjama, M. Kiurula, and H. Laitinen, “Accidents in Materials Handling at Construction Sites,” Construction Management and Economic, vol. 21, pp. 729-736, 2003.].

There are many studies conducted that identify the main accident types within the construction industry ranging from falls, falling objects and buried under the excavated sand or soil in the context of Malaysia.

These occurrences are due mainly to the poor management of the sites and sometimes simply just the behaviour and common practices or cultures of the workers passed down at work.

Based on situation and nature most of the construction accidents occurred, it is undeniable that most of us would conclude that employers are at fault and that the welfare of these workers is at risks. Others may believe that it is the attitudes of the workers themselves that caused these accidents.

The introduction of Master Plan for Occupational Safety and Health in Construction Industry 2005-2010 which serves to guide all construction stakeholders to strengthen their occupational safety and health activities within the industry where it focuses on six (6) areas (Enforcement & Legislation, Education and Training, Promotions, Incentives & Disincentive, Standard and Research & Development and Technology) identified by the National Occupational Safety and Health Committee for Construction Industry is the catalyst for the improvement of safety and health issues in construction industry in Malaysia..

With these implementations enforced by authorities and governmental bodies, construction stakeholders are already given the guide to adapt these strategies into their construction activities while observing strict adherences to the safety of everyone involved in the construction sites.

(this article written for 1BINA.my)