Sunday, February 05, 2006

Steel Formwork killed Dr Liew Boon Borng

What? A two-tons steel mould fall down from the sky & killed our Top-Gun Dr Liew?

You must be mad! How can it be so chun (coincidental)?

And, Malaysia has NOISH (National Occupational Institute for Safety and Health) and DOSH (Department of Safety and Health) to monitor the safety and health of works in Construction Projects?

And, the contractor is an ISO 9000 certified quality system?

Ya, ISO is about documentation, proper signages and consistency - consistently failing; and you are certified!

And, there is a Safety and Health Officer (SHO) in-charge of the works and he is certified by NOISH?

Ya, Safety and Health Officer (SHO) at construction projects are in-charge to make sure workers wear safety boots and safety helmet. But that one is a two ton, 3m x 3m steel mould; so nothing to do with SHO. His duty now is to make police report and file in a Non-Conformity Report. That's all his duty!

How can that piece fall down from the sky? Is it because the tower crane is hoisting it from the central lift-core?

The Star picture show it falls from the window.

How can that be? Well, you asked the Star reporter lah!

And, hell, that man killed is Ethos Consulting managing director.

Who is this Dr Liew Boon Horng? Is he smart?

Oh ya! He has double degree from Cambridge U - both also first class honour - in electrical and information science and also got Master Degree. He completed his PhD at the same university in engineering.

Wow, so smart ah? Sayang lah, die so young?

Ya lah, he is only 35, and his wife also badly damaged by the steel mould; she is in ICU.

The accident that killed Dr Liew Boon Horng was classified as "Sudden Death".

Police investigation is ongoing and the Atorney-General is waiting for the report to decide whether there is an offence indictable.

The family of Dr Liew can institute civil proceedings against the property developer and the contractor for criminal damages under the Law of Tort.

Any such damages suit will include burial cost, bereavement and loss of dependency. dependency claim is the income that the victim would have earned had he been alive.

However, under the Civil Law Act 1956 (amended 1980), the maximum liability will be up to a maximum limit of the total current income up to the age of 55, divided by two. In literal sense, Dr Liew is 35; so he had 20 years till age 55, and divided by 2, his family can claim dependency up to a maximum of 10 years.

If the victim is 56 year-old, and killed as a result of reckless negligence, the family will get nothing under loss of dependency.

Will this incident wake up all contractors and property developers; including governmental bodies and regulators?

Will we learnt a lesson from here, or will this kind of incident need to be repeated a few more times until a minister's son or son-in-law is strickened before we learnt to be safety conscious and adopt it as a culture in the system of construction management?

The hypothesis is: The regulators had been sleeping. Most construction projects, particularly high-rise buildings under construction lack proper safety and health control system. What we see of those safety nets, safety shoes and helmets are for the purpose of visibility. There is no system to monitor and control safety and health. There exist only activities that denotes safety; not fundamental of a system management.

DOSH, NOISH, HSE - All are bullshit!!! System dysfunctioning yet, the executives are parading their efforts of incompetence in the name of competence.

The contractor for the project was served with seven stop-work orders, nine notices and three summonses over the last 2 years since construction work for the Plaza Damas service apartments began.

You believe it? Yet the NOISH authorities allowed the project to go on indefinitely?

The Contractor is MWE Advance Structures Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of public listed company, MWE Holdings Bhd. A public listed company and an ISO 9000 certified organization for quality system?

My God, is ISO certification a problem in Malaysia? Or, is the quality auditors blind?

The company was given a safety rating of D, E, being the lowest rating by DOSH!!!

The company was served 3-summonses for safety breach and among the main offences were unsafe scaffolding, absence of guardrails, and loading platforms are not designed by certified engineers. The contractor was also found to have used unregistered heavy machineries which are not inspected and certified fit by the Machinery Department.

On complaints by residents from nearby Puncak Prima apartments that work was still in progress, Human Resources Minister, Dr Fong Chan onn said the contractor was carrying out minor remedial work on its safety equipments. “We have issued the stop-work order and we will make sure the contractor complies with it,” he said.

Several complaints from Puncak Prima residents that work on the project was still on early yesterday. “The crane was moving all morning and I could hear sounds of machinery works, hammering and chiselling,” said a chartered accountant, who declined to be named. Another resident, who only wanted to be known as Cheong, claimed that work at the site used to be carried out even on public holidays and weekends, sometimes until 2am.

“Residents are unhappy over the inadequate safety measures at the site and have complained many times to City Hall but our grouses fell on deaf ears,” he said.

There will be more of such problems in the days/years to come. There is no solution to it as every problem can be "settled" (under-table or on-top of table), and even if more regulations and departments are set up, it is a matter of paying over-the-table or under-the-table. It is inherent culture, and rules and regulations are made to provide opportunities for some side-income.

Believe me, that's the culture that had been since decades.

Soon, Dr Liew Boon Horng (the decease) will be forgotten until the next minister's son is hit by a collapse tower crane.

The government has set up an investigation committee headed by former Public Works Department (PWD) Director-General Tan Sri Omar Ibrahim to probe into the accident that killed management consultant Dr Liew Boon Horng.

This committee was set up within the Malaysian Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) as the Investigations Committee and will include current PWD Deputy Director-General II Dr Judin Abdul Karim and PWD Director of Expert and Civil Engineering Branch P.N. Selvanayagam. Other members of the committee would be selected by Tan Sri Omar in consultation with the Works Minister and the CIDB.

I am sure Tan Sri Omar, a person who commands high respect, will do his job thoroughly and efficiently. Tan Sri Omar is recognised as a NO-Nonsense guy and he doesn't curry flavour or compromise his integrity.

But what suprised me is two key elements:

First, why is CIDB involved in such investigation? In the first place, CIDB had never shown to be involved actively in monitoring or controlling the construction projects in whatever role that can tangibly be said to have proactively, nor productively, being a partner of the industry other than to spent time in India trying to secure some projects and selling it to the few high profile Malaysian contractors for a percentage of commissions.

Since the setup of CIDB decades ago, what had been seen of CIDB in the eyes of contractors and property developers is that they exist to collect 0.25% of the project contract sum from the contractors for each and every construction project exceeding $500,000. Thereafter, nothing beneficial had been done to assist the contractors other than to ensure that the contractors register themselves with them, buy the green cards issued by CIDB, and apart of this, is the great Indian mission of projects.

The Human Resources Ministry wants answers from the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) on the 700 cases of negligence at project sites reported since 2003. Datuk Seri Dr Fong Chan Onn said his ministry would meet with the board this week to ascertain what was wrong in the industry. “We want to know the outcome of their investigations as CIDB has the power to issue stop-work orders and take action against errant contractors. We are serious as we do not want a repeat of the tragedy which happened in Sri Hartamas (Kuala Lumpur) last week,” he said. Dr Fong statement was in response to media reports about the 700 cases, which included 150 high-profile incidents.

I am not sure if Dr Fong understands the role and responsibility of CIDB and also whether CIDB understand their purpose of existence.

Secondly, I am puzzled at the committee that is set up to investigate the incidence at Plaza Damas. It seemed to consist of structural engineering design engineers. But the key problem that is involved in the incident involves the operation management of the construction activities, the mechanical engineering operation of hoisting steel moulds, clamping and locking of the craning and hoisting system, how the workers and supervisors control and monitor the craning, hoisting, fixing, removing and stacking the steel moulds. This concerns, project management, construction site operation management, tower-cranage management, safety and risk operation management of work activities and tasks. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is involved with structural engineering design.

It puzzles me - are they going to investigate the steel mould design? Are they looking into the reinforced concrete design? Are they going to check and analyse the scaffolding design and installation? What for? What the F**k for?

Primarily as I see it, the investigation should be centered on how the steel moulding operations are carried out from hoisting, installation, removal and stacking; how the safety of the work's operation were planned, monitored and controlled; and whether there any risk management - identification, quantification, response planning, risk monitoring, risk control, and workaround management? The analysis should include the methods of operation and resource competence such as the competence and control of tower-crane operation, how contractor execute and supervise their work and task operations, how they manage safety and risk, and whether the consulting engineers and architects of the project had played their professional roles of project management.

The committee should therefore include those who understand tower-crane operation, steel formwork system operation management (not design), construction management safety and health experts, mechanical engineers to analyse the hoisting and installation process for the steel moulding formwork system, project management experts in high-rise building construction, and construction-risk system managers.

At such, if the investigation committee is crowded with structural design experts, and government servants, including CIDB staffs, the presumption is that they understand nothing of contractors' operation management and process. Even those purported associated consultants of CIDB are good talkers, and none have been experienced as contractor's operation managers or had been construction site managers who had been involved in high-rise building construction management process in the role of the contractor's operation.

Unless you are been involved with the contractors in construction process and management role, it is hard for government servants irrespective whether they are ex-JKR or ex-consulting engineers, to be able to have insights to the real emphirical problem that caused such incident.

Fantasy and fallacy always prevail... I hope Tan Sri Omar truly understand and discover the profound knowledge of the contractor's operation.


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IRFAZKIN said...

hi, I was making some 'rounds' to do my research on Malaysian OSH culture. I read your article on the late Dr Liew with great interest.

I also saw this thread that might interest you all on OSH and the late Dr. Liew.

In today's Malay Speaking Tabloid KOSMO Sunday 2 April, 2006 page 5 - 8 ('Fokus' Column), they are talking about OSH.

IRFAZKIN said...'s the thread sorry

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