Quality, safety and professionalism are primary prerequisites towards transforming construction into a responsible, developed industry. High accident and fatality rates, limited integration of health and safety aspects in the work culture, poor quality buildings and collapsing infrastructure, and delays in approvals of construction permits are some of the major issues in the industry today that affect the general public, businesses, workers and consumers.
Case for Change
Four key issues impact on the performance of the construction value chain:
1. Lack of adequate emphasis on quality assessment and assurance
The Malaysian construction industry does not emphasis enough on quality workmanship and quality-rated buildings. This is due to lack of demand for quality from both clients and consumers, resulting in lack of quality-rated buildings. Only a very limited number of standards for materials and structures in Malaysia, have been developed by SIRIM QAS and CIDB in line with internationally recognised standards.
One of the main rating systems for buildings is the Quality Assessment System in Construction (QLASSIC), which assesses contractor workmanship, as well as broader quality assurance for construction of building. The take up of this system is low, with only 3% of buildings in Malaysia using it in 2013. Additionally, the lack of independent quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) assessment in the industry makes it difficult for consumers to discern quality of construction and distinguish industry players that offer higher quality standards.
2. Poor conditions on work-site, including workers’ amenities and safety and health standards
Poor safety and health in the industry has led to multiple major accidents in recent years. It has also gained a negative reputation due to its high fatality rates (72 in 2014 compared to 45 in manufacturing which is the 2nd highest). Living conditions of workers is also a major concern, especially in the case of foreign workers inflicted with living quarters that do not meet the minimum standards.
A shortage of Safety and Health Officers (SHO), Site Safety Supervisors (SSS) and Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) inspectors also contribute to limited enforcement of safety on construction projects.
Construction sites with poor housekeeping practices pose a threat to workers and the general public as they can become breeding grounds for vector diseases such as dengue. Hence the call to action for more stringent checks and greater responsibility on the part of the industry players is gravely needed.
3. Complex regulatory framework, processes and procedures, which lead to delays in permits and approvals
Regulatory framework, particularly pertaining to the issuance of licenses and permits are complex and can be difficult to navigate. Partly, the frameworks do not accommodate modern practices or the adoption of new technologies, leading to inefficiencies and cost. Unclear regulations also result in limited clarity and inconsistent interpretations, resulting in industry disputes.
This greatly impacts the ease of doing business in the construction industry with delays in the approval of construction permits, cost of obtaining a permit, and number of procedures involved in obtaining a permit. For instance in Malaysia it takes over 74 days to obtain a construction permit as compared to only 24 days in Singapore.
4. Room to enhance public perception of the industry and awareness of initiatives to improve the image of the industry
Negative perceptions regarding safety, quality, environmental friendliness and adoption of technology in the construction industry deter the many from taking up a career in construction, citing safety issues as a concern.
Low stakeholder engagement within the industry results in lack of awareness of the existence of government-led initiatives. This explains the low take-up of such initiatives despite them having obvious benefits.
The main aim of the CITP is to ensure that quality, safety and professionalism is ingrained into the culture of the construction industry. Therefore the key outcomes for 2020 include ensuring that
- more than 50 per cent of public projects exceed acceptable QLASSIC score
- more than 50 per cent reduction in work-site fatalities and injuries
- achieving improvement by 5 percentage points in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business indicator for dealing with construction permits.
Quality, safety and professionalism are important contributors to the Inclusiveness goal under the 11th Malaysia Plan. The CITP hopes that the new culture will lead to a more quality-conscious and inclusive construction industry.
Quality, safety and professionalism ingrained in industry culture
The construction industry as of 2015 was experiencing a wide spectrum of issues pertaining to matters of quality, safety and professionalism.
This thrust manages the issues of:
- Lack of adequate emphasis on quality assessment and assurance
- Poor conditions on worksite, including workers’ amenities and safety and health standards
- Complex regulatory framework, processes and procedures, which delays permits and approvals
- Room to enhance public perception of the industry and awareness of initiatives to improve the image of the industry
The CITP aims for quality, safety and professionalism to be ingrained in the culture of the construction industry through the five initiatives of the QSP thrust.
Initiative Q1: Increase emphasis on quality and implement quality assessments
Initiative Q2: Improve workplace safety and worker’s amenities
Initiative Q3: Improve ease of doing business by addressing regulatory constraints
Initiative Q4: Promote and raise awareness of CITP initiatives
Initiative Q5: Enhance integrity and increase governance