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Ensure safety of building at all stages of construction

Source from: New Straits Times, Original Article

LETTERS: With reference to Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye’s article early last month – “Regular Checks Vital” – I wish to respectfully add on a couple of points.

The Chairman of Alliance for Safe Community touched on the past Highland Tower collapse (in 1993) which he mentioned was partly due to a burst water pipe contributing to a landslide.

Diving deeper, the main causes of the tower collapse are attributed to inadequate drainage, failure of rubble wall and rail-pile foundations identified from a study titled “Landslide of Highland Towers 1993: A case study of Malaysia” published in 2017.

These failures were predominantly from human errors at the building design, construction and maintenance stages.

The preliminary investigations from the recent “Florida Condo Collapse” in the United States uncovered another glaring error involving human error/nonchalance whereby an Engineer’s Audit Report back in 2018 (warning on dangerous structural damages) was not immediately addressed.

If the audit report findings had been given due attention and the damages rectified with urgency or if the building was declared unsafe for human occupation and its occupants duly evacuated, probably there would not be a catastrophic loss of lives today.

What I am alluding to is that human errors must be minimised or best eliminated during all construction activities. During the design stages, appropriate standards (such as from the Malaysia’s Construction Industry Development Board – CIDB) must be adhered to.

Architects and Professional Engineers involved in the review and approvals of building designs must demonstrate a high sense of professional and personal integrity prior to giving the green light for a construction activity to proceed or commence.

Contractors involved in the work execution must also demonstrate the highest professional ethics so as to ensure no corners were cut in the use of manpower and materials that could definitely compromise the structural integrity.

Those involved in giving the “Final Approval” for a building construction must also be equally thorough in ensuring that all building standards and designs were adhered to; do not turn a blind eye on any building non-compliance that may later return to haunt the nation in terms of major loss of lives, be it adults or children.

Once a building has been occupied, regular periodic inspections and audits must be carried-out; more importantly the findings and reports must be reviewed and addressed by those in-charge of building and facility maintenance.

Sadly at times, audits and inspections are conducted as part of a “tick-box” exercise and worse, the reports often become dust collectors in someone’s desk or cupboard and only pulled-out for finger pointing when a mishap happens.

On a final note, those involved in construction (design, approvals, building construction works and maintenance) must be free from human-errors that can cause mishaps and major accidents.

Elements of corruption and turning a blind-eye must be eradicated; a sense of personal accountability should be there whereby everyone understands their role in that particular construction activity has an impact on the lives of future occupants of the structure that is being constructed.

If a failure indeed happens resulting in the loss of innocent lives, then those responsible for the construction who were negligent and did not follow any due-diligence process must be dealt adequately by the laws of the land.

For those in the construction and facility maintenance industry, we should all strive to prevent similar cases of structural collapse on our shores.


Senior Manager, Occupational Safety & Health (OSH)

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times

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