Aliasman Morshidi TechIOSH, vice-president of the Malaysian Society for Occupational Safety and Health, explains his role in the exciting developments taking place in Malaysia’s OSH sector.
Malaysia is seeing a significant refocus on safety in the workplace, as the government undertakes its OSH Master Plan 2021-25. If this development could be characterised as combining the best of local knowledge with the experience and influence of respected bodies overseas, then few people better embody the initiative than Aliasman Morshidi.
Born in Kuching in Sarawak, Aliasman took a degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Queensland in Australia, and an MBA from Mara Technology University, Malaysia. He then spent more than 20 years in industries including construction, manufacturing and oil and gas. His last position was as a senior manager and head of the health, safety and environment (HSE) department for an aerospace parts manufacturer. He is a technical member of IOSH and was recently elected as vice-president of the Malaysian Society for Occupational Safety and Health (MSOSH).
‘I began my career as a process and equipment engineer, but I only started my involvement in OSH when my supervisor nominated me to become an emergency response team member and safety and health committee member,’ Aliasman says.
‘I had the opportunity to become a safety engineer-cum-SHO [safety and health officer] at my previous employers. I have experience with factory mutual insurance and risk management, radiation protection and the establishment of OSH management systems. I became a full-time OSH professional in 2002 and haven’t looked back.
‘In Malaysia, there is a clear process flow defined in the OSH (SHO) Regulations 1997 regarding how you can become a competency-defined SHO. You need a minimum of a high-school certificate, and you need to attend a SHO course presented by a training provider approved by DOSH [Department of Occupational Safety and Health]. Then you need to pass the SHO assessment and gain a minimum of three years’ industrial experience before you can register.’
Malaysia has seen a continuous, gradual modernisation of OSH legislation, starting with the prescriptive Factory and Machinery Act 1967, up to the more self-regulatory approach found in the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994. This, combined with improved working conditions, has contributed to notable success: over the last 15 years, DOSH figures show that fatality rates have reduced by 46.6% and accident rates have reduced by 53.6%.
‘There is still room for significant improvement,’ Aliasman says. ‘Based on the new Master Plan 2021-25, we have a target of 2.6 per 100,000 people for fatality rates and 1.2 per 1000 for accident rates. There are big challenges to that, especially in construction, mining and quarries, and utilities [see OSH in Malaysia, right]. But I believe it can be achieved if all OSH stakeholders are committed and the political will in OSH leadership at all levels is high.’
Aliasman is committed to playing a personal role in this progress. ‘When I joined MSOSH in 2014, I could see that the demands on OSH professionals and officers from industry had become very challenging.
‘When I was elected as one of the committee members in 2015 and then as a management committee member in 2018, I proposed that we develop a four-year strategy as part of MSOSH’s commitment to supporting its members and the OSH sector in Malaysia. This is known as MSOSH’s Specific Strategies 2018-21.’
These strategies cover six key areas: leadership, professionalism, sustainability, networking, industrial hygiene and occupational health, and international networking. In addition to these strategies, MSOSH has established six new objectives, referred to collectively as the ProWELL scheme.
‘We want to develop capabilities. We want to encourage the proactiveness of OSH professionals in terms of their participation in OSH issues locally and also internationally. We want to focus on the welfare of MSOSH members. We want to instil ethical values among the members. We want to promote leadership among the members of MSOSH. And finally, we want to enhance competencies through continuous education and learning as part of professional development,’ says Aliasman.
IOSH in Malaysia: A leg up for a new generation
During the development of Malaysia’s Master Plan 2021-25, IOSH has participated in stakeholder consultation and provided comments.
IOSH has also established a memorandum of understanding with MSOSH and is working collaboratively with it and other OSH organisations in Malaysia to improve the professional standing and the career pathway of OSH professionals.
‘I believe IOSH can play a hugely significant role in helping us to promote the OSH profession,’ says Aliasman.
‘Through strategic collaboration, we can share resources and expertise. It’s a win-win for all of us, and with this influence, our goal is to produce a new generation of OSH professionals who can become agents of change in Malaysia.’
MSOSH and Aliasman have put the experience and knowledge of the international OSH community to good use when it comes to benchmarking practices in Malaysia and creating a new OSH competency framework.
‘The MSOSH competency framework was actually initiated after I came back from the World Congress on Safety and Health at Work 2017 in Singapore,’ says Aliasman. ‘I outlined to the management committee the importance of establishing an OSH competency framework for OSH professionals in Malaysia.
On behalf of MSOSH, Aliasman then compared Malaysian safety with the Singapore Accord 2017, the Workplace Safety and Health Council’s Competency Development & Training in Singapore, Board of Certified Safety Professionals in the US and with a pre-existing framework from the UK. ‘We also have a memorandum of understanding with the Malaysia Board of Technologists and with the National Safety Council of Australia,’ he adds.
‘We tried to ensure that the OSH competency framework that we proposed is on par with other practices around the world. That’s why we have also maximised collaboration between MSOSH and IOSH’ (see A leg up for a new generation, above).
Raising the bar
Despite Malaysia’s long-standing safety legislation and its relative success in bringing down accidents at work, the focus on competencies is a new approach for the local sector. Aliasman believes this change is crucial if OSH and OSH professionals are to be seen as valued elements of working life.
‘For any competency framework to have effect, the most important thing we need is a source of authority. We need those in power to recognise OSH professionals. What we want to do now is promote and encourage educational institutions and industries to participate in establishing the first national OSH competency professional framework,’ Aliasman says.
‘With the Master Plan, DOSH is creating a programme that will increase the numbers of OSH-competent persons, as well as increasing their competency capabilities and effectiveness.
‘DOSH is also planning to integrate the existing Malaysian scheme of accreditation, currently covered by the Department of Skills Development, with the education and training of OSH-competent persons. That means, soon OSH-competent persons and OSH professionals will need to apply and meet the requirements and academic standards set by the national skill standards. This is a big improvement.’
Aliasman hopes another project he is heavily involved with may also contribute to culture change. He is responsible for leading the MSOSH Academy, created to develop professionalism and produce OSH professionals with the specific qualifications, skills and knowledge required to adapt to industry needs.
‘Hopefully, we can drive the sector so that it will be seen on the same level as other professions, such as engineers or lawyers,’ he says.
On a mission
‘The biggest challenges for me when I’m handling safety are the human factors,’ Aliasman says.
‘If you’re exposed to different industries and all those cultures of safety management, you can see more clearly where you can reduce accidents in the workplace, and you have a far better idea of how you can secure buy-in from management and employees.
‘Instead of carrying on with more enforcement and compliance, the important thing is how you approach people and explain why safety is important, not just from the business perspective and legal perspective, but on more fundamental values. I believe these are values that we can spread more effectively here in Malaysia, both in the workplace and in daily life.’