Addressing building defects: A guide on legal issues, safety, and standards

08 Nov 2023 03:00pm
The ceiling of the car porch in front of the Megah Rise Mall entrance at Taman Megah in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, collapsed in October - PIX  credit FACEBOOK.
The ceiling of the car porch in front of the Megah Rise Mall entrance at Taman Megah in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, collapsed in October - PIX credit FACEBOOK.

SHAH ALAM - It is important for property owners, developers, and contractors to adhere to proper construction standards and conduct regular maintenance and inspections.

In situations where developers, property owners, or contractors neglect construction standards and maintenance, legal action may be necessary, as this can involve complaints to regulatory bodies, civil lawsuits for compensation or repairs, or even criminal charges for negligence or fraud.

CIDB Malaysia Chief Executive Datuk Seri Mohd Zaid Zakaria said building defects can be put into three categories: structural defects, non-structural defects, and workmanship defects.

"A structural defect may be caused by the failure of the load-bearing element of the building, for example, a broken column or beam.

"Structural defects may compromise the safety of the building and require extensive repairs.

"Non-structural defects are damaged building components, such as windows, roofs, and walls.

"Workmanship defects include uneven surfaces, uneven tiles, misaligned doors and windows, water leakage, and more," Zaid told Sinar Daily.

In many cases, legal and regulatory mechanisms exist to hold responsible parties accountable for addressing defects and ensuring the safety and habitability of buildings.

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Property owners should also consider investing in proper building maintenance to prevent and address defects as they arise.

Zaid added that to address common workmanship defects, CIDB has introduced the Quality Assessment System in Construction (QLASSIC), which is an independent method to assess and evaluate the quality of workmanship of building projects based on the Construction Industry Standard (CIS) 7.

"CIDB emphasises building safety and construction work during and after construction.

"CIDB places great emphasis on the safety of buildings and construction work during or after construction is done, and this role is placed under the responsibility of the contractor.

"Through Act 520, the responsibility of ensuring building and construction work safety during or after construction falls under the project contractor and individuals who manage or regulate construction sites.

"According to Act 520, if construction work is found to endanger life and health, CIDB has the authority to stop the work and take action against parties that are found guilty," he said.

However, in order to ensure quality and safe construction work, only building materials with the Certification of Standards Compliance can be used in construction projects, he added.

"This will prevent any safety risks to construction personnel and the public from the use of low-quality materials.

"The list of construction materials covered under Act 520 is listed under Schedule 4," he said.

Zaid said using skilled construction would also contribute to the quality and safety of construction work.

The list of construction trades that require accreditation is listed under Schedule 3 of Act 520.

"In order to ensure building safety, the Uniform Building By-Laws (UBBL) 1984 enacted under the Street Drainage and Building Act 1974 stipulate that all new buildings require submission of plans for approvals prior to construction by a principal submitting person (PSP), such as a professional architect or professional engineer.

"The implementation and enforcement of the UBBL are under the respective local councils.

"The UBBL 1984 also stipulated the construction requirements and fire requirements of a building." Hence, this provides structural requirements related to the design and specifications of materials, loadings, foundations, and superstructures, which govern the design, specifications, and construction of walls, floors, and building structures, Zaid added.

Meanwhile, Selangor Fire and Rescue Department Operations Centre Chief Zulfikar Jaffar said that in terms of the construction work that was being overseen, it is crucial to seek feedback and evaluations from relevant technical agencies, such as the Local Authority (PBT), as these assessments from technical experts can help ensure that the construction process meets safety standards and follows all necessary guidelines.

On safety during the construction process, Zulfikar outlined a set of comprehensive safety recommendations:

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

It is imperative that all workers on the construction site wear and use the appropriate personal protective equipment. This includes items such as safety helmets, safety shoes, or any necessary tools for specific tasks. The correct use of PPE helps safeguard the well-being of the workforce and minimises the risks associated with construction activities.

Vigilance and Awareness

All individuals working in the construction area should maintain a high level of vigilance and be acutely aware of their surroundings. Paying attention to safety signage, hazard warnings, and the activities of others is crucial. Construction sites are dynamic environments, and being alert can prevent accidents and injuries.

Equipment Handling

Before, during, and after using equipment, it is vital to ensure proper handling and maintenance. This involves arranging equipment systematically, checking it for safety and functionality before use, and securely storing it after the task is completed. Well-maintained equipment is less likely to malfunction and cause accidents.

Clean and Safe Environment

The construction area should always be kept clean and safe. This includes promptly removing debris, waste materials, and other potential hazards from the work area. Utilising suitable containers, such as roll-on/roll-off (RORO) bins, for the disposal of construction debris ensures a tidy and secure environment. A clean workspace reduces the risk of accidents and facilitates more efficient work processes.

Emergency Response Plan (ERP) To further enhance safety on the construction site, it is advisable to establish a robust emergency response plan (ERP).

This plan should address worst-case scenarios and outline procedures and protocols for handling emergencies effectively. Having a well-defined ERP ensures that all workers are well-prepared to respond to unexpected situations, minimising the potential for harm and damage.

"Implementing these safety recommendations will not only create a safer work environment for everyone involved but also demonstrate a commitment to the well-being of the workforce and the public.

"Safety measures should be an integral part of any construction project to effectively prevent accidents, injuries, and potential risks," Zulfikar said.

On Oct 28, the ceiling of the car porch in front of the Megah Rise Mall entrance at Taman Megah in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, collapsed leaving three people injured.