MSOSH: Occupational Safety Law Applies To Government, Overhaul Public Health Sector Safety

The Malaysian Society for Occupational Safety and Health offers investigation services to probe workplace bullying in the public health care sector.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 9 – The Malaysian Society for Occupational Safety and Health (MSOSH) today reminded the Ministry of Health (MOH) that workplace bullying is prohibited by law, including in the government sector.

MSOSH cited the Occupational Safety and Health (Amendment) Act 2022, of which Section 2(2) explicitly states that the law applies to all places of work throughout Malaysia, “including in the public services and statutory authorities”.

MSOSH, which is an association for occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals, pointed out that the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) describes psychological harassment as a form of workplace harassment, violence, or abuse.

DOSH’s Guidance for the Prevention of Stress and Violence in the Workplace 2002 recognises psychological violence, described as often consisting of “repeated, unwelcome, unreciprocated and imposed action which may have a devastating effect on the victim.”

Sexual harassment is also recognised by DOSH as a form of workplace violence, as well as bullying that is defined as “a form of psychological harassment consisting in persecutory behaviour through vindictive, cruel, or malicious attempts to humiliate or undermine an individual or groups of employees, including unjustified, constant negative remarks or criticisms, isolating a person from social contacts and gossiping or spreading false information.”

“It needs to be clarified that the risk of OSH in the health sector is very complex and is caused by at least two elements,” MSOSH president Dr Shawaludin Husin said in a statement.

“The first is fatigue caused by high mental stress and long periods of work. We wish to stress that stress and fatigue were much higher since 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The second is problems from the bullying environment and culture as alleged by various parties, where doctors or junior doctors face mental stress that can create psychosocial hazards for the doctor and coworkers. Both of these dangers or hazards must be resolved jointly, or as a package, and not in isolation or by season.”

The death of a 25-year-old house officer from Penang Hospital last month sparked national debate on the alleged culture of bullying of trainee doctors. 

Hartal Doktor Kontrak, a group spearheading the cause of contract doctors, has since posted stories by anonymous doctors who alleged sexual harassment in Serdang Hospital in Selangor and Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital in Alor Star, Kedah. Both are MOH facilities.

Penang state executive councillor for agro-tech and food security, rural development and health Dr Norlela Ariffin similarly related anonymous doctors’ claims of workplace bullying in public health care facilities, including “name calling (idiot, moron, f****r), tie-pulling, body shaming, physical and mental abuse”.

Dr Shawaludin called for an “overhaul” of OSH in the public health sector.

“The fatigue of health workers, especially young doctors that is being debated now with the threat of suicide, does not only endanger themselves, but it would be even more tragic if it can lead to errors in their duties as physicians who treat patients,” he said.

“The quality of health care services will deteriorate and affect public confidence in the delivery of public services if not apprehended immediately.

“Health care workers will lose their morale to work and this will affect our public health care delivery system. These cascading effects are very serious if we continue to delay an overhaul of OSH in the public health sector.”

Dr Shawaludin urged Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin to include worker OSH issues in the White Paper on health care reform that he plans to table in Parliament in November.

“Priority on Hazard Identification, Risk Assessment and Risk Control (HIRARC) must be given to new doctors because HIRARC evaluation of this group involves the risk of loss of life through suicidal thoughts.”

MSOSH also offered MOH free independent investigation services in the issue of OSH and workplace bullying in the public health sector.

“Among the expertise that we can offer is a root cause analysis in the investigation of the pertinent incidents and to make recommendations on appropriate control measures for the short-term, medium-term, and long-term, by taking into account legislative limitations.”

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