15 August 2012
6 construction accidents and 5 fatalities in past month
Construction sector to have management-led inspections and Safety Time-out at worksites
The Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) Occupational Safety & Health Inspectorate (OSHI) will be stepping up surprise inspections island-wide at all worksites, while the Workplace Safety & Health (WSH) Council, Singapore Contractors Association Limited (SCAL) and Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore (REDAS) have called on the industry to conduct management inspections and a “Safety Time-out” on their sites. This is aimed at addressing the recent spate of 6 serious construction-related accidents over the past month, which have resulted in 5 fatalities and several others injured.
MOM’s preliminary investigations have shown that the lapses that led to these accidents and fatalities were due to the failure to implement control measures and failure to ensure adequate supervision of work. These accidents could have been prevented with proper risk management.
In order to address these worrying lapses, MOM will be stepping up the number of inspections, particularly for the construction sector. MOM’s OSHI officers will be conducting these inspections island-wide to identify workplace safety and health risks. These inspections will focus on 3 main work activities, namely demolition, formwork and working at heights, and will cover other workplace safety and health measures.
MOM’s Director of Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate Mr Kevin Teoh said,
“Based on our preliminary investigations, these recent workplace accidents could have been prevented if each stakeholder had put in greater effort to assess the risks as well as check and review procedures before carrying out work, particularly for the construction industry. What is more worrying is that these accidents over the past month were serious and the number of workers injured or even killed could have been higher. MOM is very concerned, and we are launching a blitz of island-wide surprise inspections at all worksites over the next few weeks. We will take stern action against those found to be flouting safety regulations and disregarding workers' safety. We welcome the initiative by the construction sector’s major players to conduct management inspections and a Safety Time-out to address possible lapses. We urge everyone in the sector to participate here."
The WSH Council’s Construction and Landscape Committee has held discussions with key industry players like SCAL and REDAS to understand industry concerns and formulate industry-wide initiatives. Over the next few weeks, the management and leaders of major construction players will be walking the ground to help ensure their supervisors and workers follow and adhere to established WSH rules and regulations. Sites that have not earlier conducted safety time-outs will also be urged to take the initiative to take “time-out” for at least half a day (up to 4 hours) to review and take stock of safety practices as well as risk assessment of critical activities2. They can take reference from the WSH Council’s Safety Time-out checklist in .
Mr Jackson Yap, Chairman of the WSH Council’s Construction and Landscape Committee, who is also Group Managing Director of United Engineers Limited (UEL)3, elaborated on the move,
“This recent high accident frequency is a cause for concern and suggests that there may be gaps in how sites are managing safety issues on the ground. The Council calls on industry to take heed of this current worrying trend and address any potential lapses on worksites immediately. As each of the accidents involved different types of work and had varying contributing factors, management leadership and a systematic review of core work processes will be key to arresting this trend. My company, United Engineers, will take part in this movement at sites where we are the main contractor and at sites where we wear our developer and owner hat.”
Supporting this move, President of SCAL Dr Ho Nyok Yong said,
“Recently, we have seen a significant increase in construction activities. This has raised concerns about whether established safety practices are being closely adhered to and if there are gaps which could be possible cause for accidents. SCAL strongly encourages all members’ management to conduct site safety inspections. Besides getting management to walk the ground, SCAL will also arrange forums and talks for these construction bosses who have used this visible leadership technique successfully to share their experiences and benefits with the rest of the sector.”
REDAS President Mr Wong Heang Fine on industry’s support for workplace safety,
“As developers, we can play a role in influencing WSH outcomes down the value chain. REDAS members are always supportive of ensuring safe and healthy worksites in all our projects. We will reinforce the importance of WSH to our business partners and encourage them to review and improve the way WSH is managed in our worksites.”
The recent spate of accidents occurred even as we saw the rate of construction fatalities and accidents decline earlier in the year. In the first half of 2012, the construction sector saw nine workplace deaths, at a rate of 2.2 deaths per 100,000 employed persons, compared to 12 fatalities at a rate of 3.2 deaths per 100,000 employed persons in 2011. Various efforts have been put in place to raise WSH standards in the sector over the last few years. A comprehensive 10-year plan4 was developed by the industry with key players taking ownership to improve standards amongst both main contractors and subcontractors as well as in the training of supervisors and workers. Alongside industry-led initiatives, MOM has also enhanced the regulatory framework to take to task companies and stakeholders who are responsible for failing to manage risks at worksites.