Accidents waiting to happen

Accidents waiting to happen
Accidents waiting to happen
Danger area: A street gate near Lat Phrao Soi 49 has practical panels that are fenced off to alert people to avoid entering. ( Photo: Nutthawat Wichieanbut )

Two tragic accidents that occurred in Bangkok early this month, which highlight the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s ( BMA ) and other organizations ‘ failure to take safety measures, shocked Bangkok residents.

On May 3, a 59- yr- aged man died after plunging into a terribly covered, 15- metre- strong manhole belonging to the Metropolitan Electricity Authority ( MEA ) on a road divider in Lat Phrao district.

The victim fell when he stepped onto the hardwood handle, which had been used to replace a stolen metal manhole cover.

A 29-year-old motorcyclist was killed after falling into a drain system inside the Mahai Sawan overpass in the Thon Buri neighborhood a few days later.

Before entering the drainage entry, the bike skidded inside the overpass, causing the rider to stutter for some meters. After the door was stolen and not replaced, one area of the drain system was left empty.

In light of these terrible events, the BMA convened a conference with various organizations to develop strategies to improve public health in the city by preventing the robbery of manhole covers.

The Bangkok Post spoke with health proponents and planners to learn how the state’s public health functions and what other steps must be taken to make the capital’s trails and streets safer for everyone.

Accountability needed

Dr Anuchar Sethasathien, chairman of the Thailand Consumers Council’s (TCC ) transport and auto sub- commission, attributed the boldness of such situations to inadequate care and requirements.

He emphasized the need for consistent common safety procedures to maintain coordination between all parties involved.

” It’s important to start with clear plans. Big city examples demonstrate how well clear guidelines can be successfully put into action and incorporated into organized work plans, he said.

It is also a must to create clear transparency measures, particularly when a huge- size initiative is divided into smaller subcontracts, said Dr Anuchar. This practice presents challenges such as uneven performance and safety issues because different subcontractors does have varying levels of expertise.

But, in Switzerland, the public health rules imposes tough sanctions if health dangers are detected in trails after function has been accepted, according to Dr Anuchar. In the event of a catastrophic accident, legal sanctions also apply.

According to him, rigorous enforcement has ensured compliance from all parties, adding that this kind of law is in position in the nations where smart area development has been successful.

In Thailand, the Office of the Ombudsman, which safeguards women’s legal rights, may get roped into the work. To make things easier for the government and state authorities to follow the progress of projects and be more diligent and proactive in ensuring security, a timetable may be provided for each project.

He continued,” Open recognition and advertising can contribute to creating a safer environment for pedestrians and drivers.”

Urban people are constantly exposed to health risks, according to Dr. Anuchar, but these risks frequently pass unnotice until an event occurs.

Anuchar: May have clear guidelines

The BMA should have effectively addressed the missing hole cover, according to Democratic Party deputy leader Suchatvee Suwansawat, who criticized the organization for shifting blame to different organizations.

Three weeks prior to the incident, the Wang Thong Lang area business notified the MEA to make sure the well was properly covered. Because it appeared to be an attempt to avoid taking responsibility, for a comment sparked outrage and condemnation.

Mr. Suchatvee claimed that the BMA is fully responsible for managing and maintaining the city’s footpaths and should n’t delay in resolving the problem.

The former governor candidate in Bangkok cited a lack of true accountability for a number of tragic tragedies, including the decline of a hoist at a construction site, from fires to the devastation of a crane.

” It occurs repeatedly because the perpetrators do n’t get the consequences.” Nothing is held responsible. Our society does n’t really care about public safety”, he said.

Safety campaigning system

An independent agency to investigate injuries, educate the public and give advice to the public and private sectors is needed, said Mr Suchatvee, a past president of the Council of Engineers.

He has collected 10,000 names to introduce a bill calling for such a body. In order to pass the bill into law within the existing government, he needs to engage the help of events.

” Some condition companies may find it unsettling that they will be kept under control.” It’s time to make fundamental shifts to the system”, he said.

He argued that the BMA can reduce risks by conducting frequent inspections to find potential dangers and enforcing regulations to ensure security is addressed.

Suchatvee: BMA is’ completely responsible’

Supanat Minchaiynunt, a Move Forward Party ( MFP ) list- MP, said safety protocols are imposed in any construction project and state agencies must ensure they are followed.

However, a tragedy may occur due to varying components, he said. In some cases, state representatives may have knowledge or expertise. In some, they merely neglect their responsibilities. At times contractors are not qualified, or do not engage in security because it’s a lower- worth task.

He suggested that the government take into account contractors ‘ safety records rather than just their performance when deciding whether to blacklist or downgrade their ranks.

” A law on procurement needs to be reviewed. Other factors, such as deliverables and safety, should be taken into account, as well as price and performance. If there are delays or safety concerns, those in the upper tiers may be downgraded, he said.

If state agencies conduct their jobs by determining whether there are any violations of safety regulations and taking appropriate actions, the MP said it will be a waste to establish a public independent safety agency.

According to Mr. Supanat, the MFP has made a motion to discuss compensation for victims and public safety.

He claimed that the victims ‘ compensation is currently a settlement between the victims and project contractors, which may not always be sufficient to meet the needs of the victims or put the contractors in a burden.

To ensure compensation for victims before lawsuits are brought against the contractors, should we set up a fund where contractors contribute 0.5 % of the project value?

Some low-value projects are carried out in the middle of the city, while some high-value ones are carried out in more remote locations, he said, and the details need to be worked out.

Supanat: Downgrade bad contractors

Cooperation is insufficient, according to the statement.

Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt has begun a project to make the city’s pavements safer, according to Sitthiporn Somkitsan, deputy director-general of the BMA’s Traffic and Transportation Department.

The governor is coordinating with several organizations that work on the pavements, he said.

According to Mr. Sitthiporn, the laws also apply to street vendors occupying public space and motorcyclists riding on the pavements, which are both risky for pedestrians.

Sitthiporn: BMA to upgrade pavements

Samart Ratchapolsitte, former deputy Bangkok governor, said accidents can be prevented if project owners take safety seriously. He warned that there are more than 600 manholes dedicated to laying unfinished cables.

The project owners must conduct frequent inspections and deal with the contractors. If they do n’t, accidents are likely to happen, “he said.

Office worker Waiwit Thongthongkham claimed he had to watch his every move as he walked along the city’s pavements because he had no idea when he might get into a gap.

He demanded that authorities impose strict rules for pedestrian safety and impose severe sanctions against contractors or organizations that do n’t follow safety precautions.

” You ca n’t ask for cooperation. Enforce the law, “he said.

Samart: Owners must take safety seriously