Fatal Padang Merdeka accident: Local authority under question

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye

KUCHING, Dec 26: The tragic fatal accident at Padang Merdeka this morning has caused seething anger and outrage over poor safety measures with pressure on the local authority who issued the permit to the contractor to carry out the sewerage work.

The 29-year-old victim, Dina Dzulkarnian Asan, son of a photojournalist, was believed to have drowned after he lost control of his motorcycle and fell into a huge drain in the 7.20am incident.

Photos of the accident with the body of the victim, his red helmet, motorcycle and a huge drum barrel floating in the water-filled drain which was covered with only wire netting went viral on social media with netizens questioning the poor safety measures which claimed another life, after a number of similar incidents previously.

“The simple steel structure with wire netting over it should never be allowed. It is flimsy and in no way could ensure the safety of anyone who knocked onto it,” said National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.

Fire and Rescue Department personnel removing the deceased from the drain earlier this morning.

Questioning the absence of adequate safety measures, Lee said the local authority who issued the permit to the contractor must carry out safety audits in all work sites in public areas to ensure the safety of the public.

“I have been very outspoken on safety. Who gives them (contractors) the permission for the road work? It is the local authority. Whether they have ensured conditions in the permit have been complied with, something that cannot be compromised is safety,” Lee told DayakDaily.

Lee stressed that two fundamental safety measures in all road works are visible signage that can be seen from far and even at night, and strong concrete barricades.

Lee, who has carried out many road safety campaigns in the state, also urged the relevant authority to pay attention to the ongoing Pan Borneo Highway project to ensure that the safety of road users are not compromised.

The ongoing drainage widening works at Padang Merdeka which started since last year is part of an RM8 million drainage upgrading to mitigate flash floods in the area.

So far, Kuching North City Hall (DBKU) has yet to release an official statement over the incident.

It has been reported that the contractor was asked to cover open sewerage shafts with concrete barriers by Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water to ensure public safety last year.

A map showing flood mitigation projects taking place in Kuching city.

Meanwhile, Minister of Infrastructure Development and Transportation Tan Sri James Masing, when contacted, expressed concerns over the incident and had instructed his officers to gather more information on the ground.

“If indeed it is the fault or negligence of the contractor in failing to erect or install the safety features as required, then the contractor has to be taken to task.”

However, the deputy chief minister would not comment until a full investigation has been carried out as to the reason why the accident occurred.

As this is not the first incident involving sewerage or road projects, Masing said there might be a need for all stakeholders such as local municipal councils and the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) to sit down together to examine how best to further improve safety features and measures.

This is the forth fatal accident in recent years at road work sites, following a car plunging into a sewerage shaft in 2013, a car crashing into metal structures and a motorcyclist crashing into a crane parked by the road side. — DayakDaily