Penang reviews safety rules for hillsite development

Local government, housing and town and country planning committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said amendments are already in progress by the Penang technical advisor committee together with the geotechnical unit of the engineering department of Penang Island City Council. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Local government, housing and town and country planning committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said amendments are already in progress by the Penang technical advisor committee together with the geotechnical unit of the engineering department of Penang Island City Council. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Sept 27 — Penang will update its safety guideline for hillsite development  issued 2012 based on recommendations made by the Commission of Enquiry into the fatal landslide in Tanjung Bungah in 2017.

Local government, housing and town and country planning committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said amendments are already in progress by the Penang technical advisor committee together with the geotechnical unit of the engineering department of Penang Island City Council (MBPP).

“The guideline will undergo a major review with more stringent guidelines and a draft of the amendments will be presented to the state planning committee by December,” he said in a press conference in Komtar this morning.

He said the amendments will include strict supervision of hillsite development works and giving the city council sole authority to appoint independent accredited checkers to inspect geotechnical reports for slopes more than 15 degrees.

“This means the independent checker will be truly independent as they will be appointed by the city council and not tied to any developer but the developer will still be paying for their services,” he said.

He said the MBPP has also drafted method to increase monitoring of development sites and made it compulsory for developers to present a full name list of site supervisors, geotechnical engineers and consultant engineers before works can start.

This requirement will be included in the amendments for the safety guideline.

The Commission of Enquiry into the Tanjung Bungah landslide that killed 11 workers in 2017 had made recommendations to the local authorities to improve its work processes in its 116-page report.

One of it was for the safety guideline for hillsite development 2012 be amended to make it applicable for all slopes including man-made ones and that a geotechnical report and an independent checker must be made compulsory for all projects involving such slopes.

Jagdeep said both the MBPP and Seberang Perai City Council (MBSP) will amend their bylaws on earth works to increase the amount of compounds imposed on those who went against the bylaws.

“We hope to gazette the new bylaws by February 2020,” he said.

He said in future, the application for planning permission will also be referred to the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) to put in place safety requirements for worksites.

He said DOSH has also prepared guidelines to improve safety at worksites and had conducted seminars and talks with government agencies on improving safety at worksites.

One of the recommendations by the commission was for the city councils to implement a Geographical Information System (GIS) to collect, collate and store relevant data and information for geotechnical designs.

He said MBPP already has GIS for engineering works and that the city council has imposed conditions for all proposed developments to present complete soil investigation reports verified by accredited consulting engineers.

“Besides that, MBPP is working with Universiti Sains Malaysia and the Geoscience and Mineral Department to implement GIS to map out high risk hillsides and slopes,” he said.

He said all recommendations in the report have been taken into consideration and appropriate actions taken to implement it.

“We want to ensure the safety of worksites to prevent any future unwanted incidents,” he said.

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