A Need for Safety First in Policy and Practice
Accidents on the roads – the SUKE crash being the latest –due to construction activities mainly in Selangor and KL, where almost all major roads face construction activities such as the MRT, LRT, elevated highways, new highways and road widening projects need to be addressed seriously.
As if all these are not enough, the utility companies, too, join the fray with their constant digging and trenching and make it dangerous and inconvenient to road users.
Heavy machinery for piling, launching, excavating and other works increase the risk on the roads. The streetscape of Kuala Lumpur and some urban areas in Selangor has changed and mostly become defaced with all these large structures.
For example, if a 10km road widening or upgrading project starts, the entire stretch is dug up here and there and this causes maximum danger and inconvenience to road users.
Main contractors immediately pass off projects to others as soon as they have won the tender and the delay in progressive payments is a major cause for either slow or stop work until payments are received.
The government or the banks that are financing the projects must ensure quick progress payments to ensure that the project can be completed according to the deadline. Progress payment can be delayed for various reasons.
For road projects, only resourceful companies with a proven record should be selected as work must be implemented and completed quickly if possible before the deadline. Even simple road widening projects take years to complete and it is time the Works Ministry looked at the causes and take remedial action.
Contractors don’t care much for safety if there are no complaints from road users. As soon as the project starts the first “casualty” is the streetlights which are switched off due to the cables being severed as a resulting of excavations here and there. Efforts should be made to connect the cables overhead temporarily to ensure the lights function again and provide safety at night.
Poor maintenance, potholes, erased lane markings, water ponding, uncovered manholes, the road shoulder grass and low tree branches not being cut or trimmed during the project period, missing signboards, barricades and traffic cones being placed too close and restricting traffic, detours, U-turns, traffic diversion and congestion become the bane of motorists during the duration of the project.
Upgrading of bridges, resulting in bridges being elevated higher, without grading the road is dangerous as trailers and container trucks experience a bump when crossing the bridge. This could result in containers or trailers becoming unhooked from the prime mover and it could lead to accidents. A good example of this is Jalan Langat connecting Klang and Banting.
Roads not regularly resurfaced is another problem. Due to this many roads are rough, potholed and worn out and lane marking have faded out. The road edges are not sloped or graded and one finds the road level having increased by six inches or more making it difficult to cross and becoming accident-prone.
Some newly resurfaced stretches are stone-bare and not properly steam-rolled leading to potholes within a short time. All these happen mainly due to poor supervision and corruption.
It is time road safety is given priority by the contractors and government authorities to reduce casualties, and they need to explore ways and means to reduce the risk and danger to road users during the construction stage.
A progressive penalty scheme should be implemented against recalcitrant contractors. Complaints by the public should also be given weight under this scheme. Stop-work orders appear not to be effective enough as the burden is mostly borne by the workers and not the senior management.
Soon there will be the annual Op Selamat for Hari Raya Aidilfitri but traffic accidents, death and injury could keep mounting and a good case was in 2019 when Selangor recorded the highest casualties and this was mainly due to all the major roads in Selangor undergoing upgrading, repairs and other construction activities that endanger road safety.
The state government and local authorities too should penalise errant and inefficient contractors and not leave it only to the Public Works Department or the Works Ministry to take action.
(Article Source : NST.com.my)