Wednesday, April 15, 2020

DOSH - To be Privatized or Not - Opinions

Enforcement role must remain with DOSH


Wednesday, 24 Apr 2019 12:00 AM MYT

WE refer to the letter “Privatisation a good option” (The Star, April 5) in which the writer proposed the privatisation of the enforcement functions of agencies under the Human Resources Ministry, including the Department of Safety and Health (DOSH).

While we at DOSHtech (association of former staff of DOSH) laud the idea, an in-depth study and careful deliberation on its practicability must be carried out by the stakeholders concerned.

Privatisation should continue to provide a balanced ecosystem where the expected level of safety and health at workplaces are sustainable and, more importantly, at a cost that does not burden industries.
DOSH enforces the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 (OSHA) and Factories and Machinery Act (FMA) 1967 and regulations made thereunder.

Factories and installations, designated machinery, lifts, hoisting machinery and etc. are subjected to regular inspections and certified as appropriate. DOSH ensures compliance to safe engineering practices of designated machinery through a detailed design review, fabrication inspection and tests before they are used for the first time. Certificates of competency are issued to qualified and accredited personnel, including but not limited to electric lift competent persons, steam engineers and engine drivers, crane operators, safety and health officers, site safety supervisors, chemical hazards risk assessors and noise assessors, prescribing the roles and responsibilities in their line of duty.

Malaysia has undergone rapid industrialisation, which inadvertently increased the volume of work that places a heavy burden on the available DOSH inspectors to perform comprehensive and thorough inspections effectively.

Suggestions and feedback from industries indicate that it is appropriate for the government to consider outsourcing designated inspection activities to a private or corporate entity to ease the burden. However, the entity must guarantee a sufficient number of qualified inspectors (including retired DOSH inspectors) who possess the knowledge and experience to perform the duties.

The results should be reflected in improved inspection schedules and enhanced service quality that benefit industries and the public.

Occupational safety health (OSH) inspection entails the risk assessment of workplaces, and competent industrial hygienists are qualified to perform the duty.

The writer’s idea of privatising the enforcement role of agencies under the Human Resources Ministry should be clarified. While the inspection activity could be outsourced to a private service provider, the enforcement of the law is an entirely different matter.

The pollution of Sungai Kim Kim is outside the purview of DOSH. There are designated government and statutory bodies that are responsible for enforcing the law on offenders who cause such serious health effects, suffering and misery to the public and damage to the environment.

But OSH enforcement is within the jurisdiction of DOSH, and this regulatory function must not be privatised or outsourced. Trained DOSH inspectors are guided by the Enforcement Uniformity Model (EUM), a tool that is applied to assess enforcement decisions in accordance with the severity of the offences. The power to enforce and proceed with the legal process against the offender is the responsibility of DOSH.

Perhaps other agencies in the Human Resources Ministry (with the exception of DOSH) could be merged, particularly those that deal with non-technical matters like the enforcement of minimum age and wages, unions and industrial relations, worker’s welfare and social security.

The inherent tasks and job description of DOSH inspectors are to enforce laws and regulations that are very prescriptive and technical in content, of which possession of an engineering degree is a prerequisite during recruitment.

Hence, DOSH should not be merged with any other agencies. It must remain a separate entity so that it can continue to provide objective and professional enforcement to protect the safety and health of workers.

DOSHtech - Star, 24/4/2019

Privatisation a good option


Friday, 05 Apr 2019 12:00 AM MYT

AS a retired Human Resources Ministry official, it is horrifying for me to read news about industrial accidents, especially those that involve fatalities.

The recent Sungai Kim Kim pollution incident is not just a blatant disregard for environmental laws but also points to poor enforcement of workplace safety.

When I was in service, one of the proposals to beef up enforcement involving the Human Resources Ministry was to merge and privatise it. But this proposal was shot down many times by those who have vested interests, including key officials in the ministry.

Right now, different agencies under the ministry have their own enforcement unit. For example, the Labour Department acts against employers who do not pay salaries on time. The Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) goes after companies who fail to meet minimum health and safety standards at the workplace. The list goes on.

This present arrangement has resulted in an environment where agencies work in silos. For example, a DOSH official on his rounds in factories will not act against employers hiring illegal workers even if he stumbles upon them.

His jurisdiction is confined only to workplace health and safety, not workers without permits. And by the time he informs the relevant authorities about this, the illegal worker would have gone into hiding.

This creates inefficiency and is more costly. Under the proposed unified enforcement unit, one person can take over the jobs of multiple staff from different agencies.

The current arrangement also creates room for enforcement officials to build “relationships” with parties which they are supposed to oversee. As we know, “familiarity breeds contempt”, if not outright corruption.

This is why a unified and privatised enforcement team can help plug the existing loopholes in the system. For a fee to government coffers, companies can bid for licences to carry out such enforcement. Since private corporations are profit-driven, they would have more incentives to ensure not just tight enforcement but also optimum use of manpower. Companies found to have slacked or engaged in dubious activities could have their licences revoked.

Privatisation of enforcement is not new. In Malaysia, vehicle inspection, previously undertaken by the Road Transport Department, is now done by Puspakom, a private company.

But unlike Puspakom, enforcement of laws pertaining to labour and human resources should not be monopolised by one company but should be opened up to enable competition, which will bring about efficiency.

Singapore, a country known for top-notch efficiency, has also privatised some of its enforcement. For example, there are five commercial auxiliary police forces authorised to provide armed security to government organisations. Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) has also authorised multiple companies to conduct vehicle inspections.

Additionally, privatising enforcement responsibilities is also in line with the government’s aspirations to trim the civil service. As we can see, there’s plenty of potential the government and public can derive from having a merged and privatised enforcement. In the spirit of new Malaysia, I appeal to Human Resources Minister M. Kula Segaran to seriously consider this long-overdue proposal.

Grik, Perak - Star, 5/4/2019

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