Indonesian construction sector pushes for better safety standards

In 2019, infrastructure and human resources are a major focus for the Indonesian government.

Gearing up for the April elections, Jokowi has aimed to highlight the progress made under his leadership in these areas, particularly through transport, water management and telecommunications infrastructure. This success, however, has been tainted by loss and workplace injury.

A key effort in combating this issue has been worker certification.

Director General of Construction Development at the Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing (PUPR), Syarief Burhanuddin, spoke about the certification process and described its delivery as being a mix of online and workplace learning, with a focus on safety through quality materials and equipment, and correct operational procedures.

While certification is legally required across all professional levels in the construction sector (from foremen and operators, to project managers, occupational health and safety experts, and site supervisors), this hasn’t always translated across into practice. The National Construction Safety Committee (KNKK) was established by PUPR in response to a series of disasters in early 2018, and aims to strengthen existing safety regulations, while also ensuring these regulations are observed. This is part of a wider movement to monitor and evaluate construction hazards, but also to prevent workplace accidents.

On Wednesday 13 March 2019, thousands of newly certified construction workers filled the Gelora Bung Karno stadium in Central Jakarta to receive their certificates – 13,900 skilled workers and 2,100 expert workers, Jokowi announced on Instagram.

In 2018, just 7.4 percent of workers (616,000 people) within the Indonesian construction sector received certification; but in 2019, the central government will work with regional governments and the Construction Services Development Agency (LPJK) to expand the certification program to target more workers in a push for better safety standards, but also to boost the competitiveness of Indonesia’s skilled workforce on a global scale.

Minister of Public Works and Public Housing Basuki Hadimuljono said “in 2019, we are focused on preparing human resources and developing infrastructure,” adding that certification was important to ensure technical expertise in workers.

Despite the formation of the KNKK, enforcing safety standards across Indonesia continues to be an issue. Syarief Burhanuddin reinforced that commitment from stakeholders at all levels of a project is needed; according to him, the government has made “real efforts to remind service providers about [carrying out projects] in accordance with safety, health and sustainability standards”.

Indonesia has made great strides in terms of infrastructure, but regulation of the construction industry across a population of over 268 million is no easy feat. Given the frequency of workplace accidents (as well as the recent mine collapse) Indonesia has much work to do to ensure progress doesn’t come at the expense of safety for construction workers.

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