We all know how busy roads in KL are and due to the ever-increasing number of cars on the road, local authorities and private contractors are trying their best to make sure everyone gets to maximise their usage of public roads. This has led to the construction of various overhead bridges, new MRT lines and skyscrapers.
However, as humanity races towards modernization, sometimes we forget to take a step back and embrace humanity. Over the span of the past 6 months, Malaysians have seen countless incidents of objects (concrete slabs, cranes, you name it) falling onto innocent passers-by from an overhead negligent construction site.
For instance, on 19th September 2020, a woman driving along MRR2 almost lost her life when a one square metre-sized piece of concrete fell on her silver Proton Waja and smashed almost her whole car. The incident occurred around 4:30pm near Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS). Around the same time in Petaling Jaya, another woman managed to escape unhurt after a portion of a tower crane fell off a trailer and landed on top of her MyVi.
Not even a month later, and another accident took place in Hartamas, where Dr Liew Boon-Horng, then 35, the managing consultant of Ethos Consulting, died instantly when a metal mould weighing almost 2 tonnes fell on his car from the 20th floor of an under-construction condominium. This just shows how dangerous construction sites are in Malaysia.
“In 2014, construction had the highest fatality rate of any industry, with 72 deaths per 1,000 workers. By comparison, manufacturing had the second highest rate, at 45 deaths,”
Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB)
While it is undeniable that we need these buildings and roads, the safety of the people should always be a priority and contractors should do everything in their power to ensure that their construction sites are safe and free from any hazards.
The duty of care these contractors owe to passers-by is actually a strict liability, meaning that as soon as they bring in dangerous equipment into their construction site, they should take all the precautions necessary to prevent any accidents from happening. This is in line with the rule in Rylands v Fletcher, which states that
“The person who for his own purposes brings on his lands and collects and keeps there anything likely to do mischief if it escapes, must keep it in at his peril, if he does not do so, is prima facie answerable for all the damage which is the natural consequence of its escape.”
It may not always be the contractor’s fault and sometimes it may actually be an accident due to faulty equipment or a mere Act of God, but the burden to maximise the safety of people is still on the contractors. They have to, at all times, despite of the circumstances, at least be able to prove that they had taken all the steps a reasonable person would take in order to prevent accidents from happening.
Some contractors try to maximise profit by cutting back on the safety precautions of not just the ordinary public, but their own construction workers too. Such irresponsible contractors should be imposed with some kind of fine or penalty to serve as a warning to other contractors.
This has been done in some instances, for example in the case of the woman in the Proton Waja, the main contractor in charge, MRCB Builders Sdn Bhd, was fined RM80,000 while subcontractor Makna Setia Sdn Bhd was fined RM100,000 and both contractors were penalised under Section 34B(1) and Section 34C(1) of the Construction Industry Development Board Act 1994 (Act 520). Fines like this would hopefully encourage other contractors to improve the safety of their worksites, so as to prevent any unwarranted casualties.
According to the law, it is a contractor’s duty to ensure the safety of building and construction works either during or after construction, and it is high time that contractors be reminded of this.
Rylands v Fletcher  UKHL 1
Foto: Astro Awani