THE Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) is the agency that enforces safety legislations in Malaysia. In 1967, the department enacted the Factories and Machinery Act, commonly known as FMA. The Act prescribes the technical details required for installing and operating machinery in the workplace. DOSH officers carry out frequent inspections to ascertain safety standards are met.
In 1994, DOSH enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act (Osha). The spirit of the Act is based on the premise that the responsibility of ensuring safety and health in the workplace lies with those who create the risks and those who work with the risks. The Act thus rightly places the responsibility for workplace safety on employers and employees.
In addition to governing safety and health in industries, the Osha Act also promotes self-regulation. Industries are encouraged to monitor their adherence to legal and safety standards rather than rely solely on DOSH enforcement. How-ever, for the last 27 years, the requirement for self-regulation has not been fully enforced by the department.
The self-regulation initiative was not enthusiastically implemented by industries. The main reason was a lack of knowledge. Most of them, particularly small and medium industries (SMEs), do not have the capability and capacity to implement self-regulation. Only the multinational companies and the large local companies practise self-regulation.
DOSH is currently reviewing and amending Osha 1994. One of the proposed amendments is the implementation of self-regulation by industries. This is included in the DOSH Occupational Safety and Health Master Plan 2021-2025. While industries welcome this anticipated amendment, SMEs may have difficulty meeting the requirements.
In Malaysia, there are trade associations for almost every industry sector. Though trade associations play a major role in assisting their members, only a small number of companies join them. A large number of businesses in the country are not members of any trade association.
The main function of a trade association is to increase its members’ efficiency in operating their businesses. They provide their members with services such as training and technical advice through conferences and networking and keep members updated on changes in industry standards and laws.
For every industry sector, there is always a specific set of best practices to manage work processes. This is vital for industries to conduct their business safely. Membership in a trade association is essential to learn these best practices.
The fast pace of technology improvement and market competition means that these practices are constantly changing. Hence, all trade associations should vigorously promote the latest best practices to their members.
As the number of members in Malaysian trade association is comparatively small, the government could in future mandate that companies must be members of their trade associations before they can renew their yearly business licences. With this requirement, trade associations can help companies realise self-regulation of workplace safety and health.
WONG SOO KAN