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
There are four key issues addressed under this thrust which have an impact on the performance of the construction value chain:
1. Lack of adequate emphasis on quality assessment and assurance
The Malaysian construction industry is fairly limited in its emphasis on quality workmanship and quality-rated buildings. This is primarily due to the lack of demand for quality from both clients and consumers, which translates into a corresponding lack of quality-rated buildings. Currently there are only a very limited number of standards for materials and structures in Malaysia, which 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 has been quite slow, with only 3% of buildings in Malaysia using it in 2013. Added to this, the lack of independent quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) assessment in the construction industry also signifies the difficulties arising for consumers to discern quality of construction and to distinguish industry players that offer higher quality standards.
2. Poor conditions on work-site, including workers’ amenities and safety and health standards
The lack of emphasis placed on safety and health in the construction industry in Malaysia has led to multiple major accidents in recent years. The construction industry 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, where they most often have living quarters that do not meet the minimum standards.
The industry also struggles with a shortage of Safety and Health Officers (SHO), Site Safety Supervisors (SSS) and Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) inspectors, which is one of the main reasons for limited enforcement of safety on construction projects.
Construction sites with poor housekeeping practices also 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 severely 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 often be difficult to navigate as they often do not accommodate modern practices or the adoption of new technologies, leading to inefficiencies and cost. Unclear regulations also present significant challenges by way of 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. Therefore a concentrated effort is required to reduce these regulatory obstacles.
4. Room to enhance public perception of the industry and awareness of initiatives to improve the image of the industry
Perceptions regarding safety, quality, environmental friendliness and adoption of technology in the construction industry are presently negative. Given this perception the younger generation is quite sceptical of taking up a career in construction, citing safety issues as a deterrent for them to enter the industry.
Stakeholder engagement within the industry is also at a low level, whereby most industry stakeholders are not aware of the existence of government-led initiatives that are currently in operation, which explains the low take-up of such initiatives despite them having obvious benefits.
The main aim of the CITP under this Strategic Thrust is to ensure that quality, safety and professionalism is ingrained into the culture of the construction industry in Malaysia. Therefore the key outcomes for 2020 in relation to this area include ensuring that more than 50 per cent of public projects exceed acceptable QLASSIC score, that there is more than 50 per cent reduction in work-site fatalities and injuries, and an 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 and the 11th Malaysia Plan. The CITP hopes that the culture they create will lead to a more quality-conscious and inclusive construction industry, which in turn will guarantee higher levels of quality in the built environment, reduce work-site accidents and remove regulatory constraints.
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. Apart from the human impact (fatalities, injuries) and the impact on finished products (low standard of workmanship) there is also an overall impact on the performance of the construction value chain.
This thrust was developed to manage these issues. The following are the issues that this thrust specifically addresses:
- 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 lead to delays in 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