by Andy Lee Choon Foh and Wong Lye Ling
The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. In just a few months, the virus has infected more than 8,600 people in Malaysia and resulted in 121 deaths as at 26 June 2020.
As Malaysia braces for an economic crisis, many corporate decision-makers face difficult decisions.
In such a critical time of budget constraints, Gamuda is spending money on regular COVID-19 testings and re-testings, as the Group has always been committed to the safety and health of its employees.
In late-March 2020, Gamuda Group of Companies took the lead and proactively allocated a substantial budget for its staff, who are at high risk of COVID-19 exposure, to be tested, traced and treated.
Gamuda Engineering Head of Quality, Safety & Health, and Environment, Andy Lee Choon Foh highlighted between April to June, more than 18,000 of Gamuda staff and workers had undergone reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-pcr) COVID-19 testings that were approved by the Health Ministry.
“The 18,000 staff and workers includes joint venture partner, contractors and sub-contractors working for the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Putrajaya Line,” he said.
Copyright © 2020 Gamuda Berhad
Gamuda’s COVID-19 Working Committee has started to leverage on Quick Response (QR) Codes together with the Fieldview system to register and keep records of employees’ body temperatures when they arrive at work.
Anyone who registered above 37.5°C would be sent to the nearest hospital.
All staff have been wearing face masks and keeping a safe distance from each other while waiting to get into or out of office elevators. This, Andy said, coupled with frequent handwashing, is the most effective way to combat this pandemic.
Copyright © 2020 Gamuda Berhad
Staff categorised as high risk of exposure to the virus are those who worked throughout the Movement Control Order (MCO) period, workers who stay in and outside of the Construction Labour Quarters (CLQs), staff who live with family members or housemates involved in providing care or services to COVID-19 patients.
Staff with underlying medical conditions like chronic diabetes, hypertension, kidney/heart disease are also deemed as highly at risk of COVID-19 exposure.
Putting to practice the ‘Safety First’ construction mantra, Andy noted frequent testings of staff, who are at high risk of exposure to the virus, allows for prompt detection, isolation of the infected person and effective contact tracing to curb the spread.
“When the MCO took effect from 18 March 2020, we appealed to the government and were allowed to carry on with the critical works,” he said.
“We had to continue with the tunnelling and long span crossing highway activities because it was a much safer option considering the impact to public safety if work had stopped,” he added.
Gamuda Berhad Senior General Manager of Group Human Resources and Admin, Wong Lye Ling, acknowledged that while the rigorous testings involved a lot of money, what is more important is to ensure employees’ safety, the impact to the business and our people, if we do not take the necessary preventive and mitigative actions.
“Yes, there is a cost to this initiative. We do it because the testings yield timely information for us to provide a safer working environment for everyone,” she said.
Wong cited Malaysia’s Health Ministry Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah stating the asymptomatic spread of Covid-19 has proven to be the bulk of cases and therefore, not a good sign.
“All it takes is one infected person to spread the virus to others, especially at project sites,” she cautioned, adding “prevention is better than cure. When a confirmed case is identified at a construction site, the authorities will issue a stop-work order and this will impact the entire project.”
In view of the potential risks, the Group also started to engage on re-testing with Rapid Test Kit antibody, on a weekly basis, for early detection and to curb possible spread before it is too late.
“It is only when the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) and other regulatory bodies have evaluated and are satisfied with the mitigative and prevention measures, the construction works resumed,” she explained.
Recently, Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof, Works Ministry Secretary-General Datuk Dr Syed Omar Sharifuddin Syed Ikhsan and CIDB Chief Executive Datuk Ahmad Asri Abdul Hamid visited Gamuda’s integrated township twentyfive.7 in Selangor.
During the inspection, the Minister lauded Gamuda for being proactive in its COVID-19 safety precautionary measures practised throughout its township developments that exceeded CIDB’s benchmark.
CIDB had also visited Gamuda’s construction sites at MRT Putrajaya Line, Belfield Tunnel and building projects such as KK257, IOI Gems, Rumah SelangorKu Puncak Bestari (RSKU PB) and C04.
When asked to comment on the government’s recent relaxation of MCO restrictions, Wong cautioned we are still co-existing with this virus until an effective vaccine is available.
So far, epidemiologists all over the world are forecasting it could take between 12 and 18 months before the World Health Organisation (WHO) declares an effective vaccine against the highly infectious COVID-19 virus.
Meantime, many have been embracing the ‘new normal’ of working remotely instead of going into the office, Mondays to Fridays.
“For staff, please be responsible and deliver your work while working from home. For bosses, trust your staff even if you don’t see them in the office,” she said.
Wong’s advice to all Gamuda colleagues is to accept that the COVID-19 virus is not going to go away anytime soon. “We all need to treat this seriously. This is going to be a long battle for all.”
“Like what Dato’ Lin had previously mentioned, “we’re in a war, you either fight the war or you’re not, there is nothing in between,” she said.
Wong urged all staff to continue being vigilant. “Please do not think you’re invincible as the virus does not discriminate.”