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Speech at Crane Safety Symposium 2017

Minister of State Sam Tan, Building and Construction Authority Academy

Mr Mohamed Abdul Akbar
Chairman of the National Crane Safety Taskforce

Distinguished guests,
Industry partners,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning. Thank you for joining us today at this year’s Crane Safety Symposium.

  1. Last month at the World Congress on Safety and Health, Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsien Loong announced our target of reducing fatal injuries to less than one per 100,000 workers before 2028. This is a challenging target but not an impossible one for Singapore. If developed countries such as the United Kingdom, Finland and Sweden have previously attained fatality rates below 1, Singapore can as well.
  2. In order to achieve this new target, we need to commit to a culture with zero tolerance of accidents and the prevention of accidents at work. Our starting point must be that no one is to risk death, injury or illness as a result of their work. This requires all stakeholders - employers, workers, unions and Governments – to take responsibility and ownership on workplace safety and health matters.
  3. I have just returned from leading a tripartite delegation to Finland and Sweden to understand the secrets behind their success in achieving a fatality rate of less than 1 per 100,000 employed persons. The strong sense of ownership to the culture of prevention by employers, workers and government came through in our meetings with government committees, union representatives and employers in these two countries.
  4. In Finland for example, companies organise internal safety committees, which look out for and raise safety and health risks faced by their colleagues, before they result in harm. So they take a preventive approach by forming safety committees among their workers to identify near-misses and potential harm. Workers are active in surfacing hazards and preventing accidents, as their own safety and livelihoods are at stake.
  5. This culture of prevention extends beyond accidents to cover the health and well-being of their workers. The regulatory framework in both countries facilitates an integrated approach to workplace safety and health. Finnish companies are required to engage the services of health care and other professionals to prevent the risk and adverse effects that work and working conditions may cause employees. This include medical examinations of workers against their identified hazards and advice on re-designing work to optimize health. Companies believe healthier employees are safer and more productive employees, and thus complements their bottom-line.
  6. Our approach to WSH, including the area of crane safety, should bear these lessons in mind. We need to actively involve our tripartite partners to prevent crane-related accidents and adopt a Total WSH approach towards managing the safety, health and wellbeing of our crane operators at work.

    Concern on Lorry Cranes Dangerous Occurrences (DO)
  7. Hence, I am happy to know that a Lorry Crane Work Group, comprising industry partners, the WSH Council and MOM was formed last year, to tackle the increasing number of crane-related accidents and Dangerous Occurrences.
  8. There were 19 crane-related DOs with four lives lost in 2016. Six out of the 19 cases involved lorry cranes, a sharp increase from only one case in 2014. In the first nine months of this year, there were eight DO cases involving lorry cranes.
  9. Our investigations showed that the main cause of these lorry crane DOs was due to the outriggers not being fully extended and deployed. If we had prevented these DOs, we would have been a step closer in achieving Vision Zero.
  10. Following extensive rounds of consultations with the industry, the Work Group has proposed three recommendations for safer lifting operations involving lorry cranes.

    Recommendations from the Lorry Crane Work Group
  11. First, enhance the training regime for lorry crane operators to emphasise on proper deployment of outriggers. The Work Group recommended that lorry crane operators be trained to assess ground conditions before deploying outriggers. Crane operators should also learn about new technological developments in lorry cranes operations, such as using remote-controlled cranes. The training will not only deepen their professional knowledge but more importantly, heighten their safety awareness.
  12. Second, encourage the installation of Stability Control Systems (or SCS) for lorry cranes. The SCS will be able to detect the position of the outriggers, whether it is fully or partially extended and computes, in real time, the safety zone in which lifting can be carried out safely. If the lorry crane operator tries to operate beyond the specified safety zone, the SCS will stop the crane from doing so. This helps to prevent the crane from toppling due to instability issues. SCS is not a new technology and has been widely adopted in Europe since 2011.
  13. Third, develop practical guidelines on safe operation of lorry cranes. These guidelines will cover areas such as proper planning for lifting work in confined areas, safety procedures and precautions that need to be taken during deployment of outriggers on uneven grounds, and equipment checks.
  14. Mr Akbar, Chairman of the National Crane Safety Taskforce, as well as the Lorry Crane Work Group, will be sharing the detailed recommendations with you later. I would like to thank our industry partners and members of the Lorry Crane Work Group for contributing these recommendations. MOM supports all the recommendations and will work closely with the Work Group to implement them.

    Tackling Emerging Risks – Heavy Lifting and Use of PPVC
  15. While we continue to tackle existing crane safety issues, we should also be mindful of emerging risks brought about by heavy lifting. One example is how greater adoption of PPVC technology can affect safe lifting operations.
  16. PPVC is a construction method, where building units are constructed and assembled elsewhere, such as in a factory. The units are subsequently put together on site. Construction time is shortened and less manpower is required. We have seen an increase in PPVC adoption in recent years, which is a good development and should be supported. However, as these structures are generally larger and heavier to lift, safety systems need to be strengthened to address the increased risks that may arise.
  17. A review of current requirements for lifting operations involving heavy lifting of PPVC units is currently underway. In the next few months, Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) with industry partners will be conducted to gather feedback on this proposed review. I encourage all of you to share your views.

    An Integrated Approach on Safety and Health
  18. Earlier on, I mentioned about taking a Total WSH approach in managing safety, health and well-being at work. Health as the saying goes is wealth. What does this really mean? To me it means being in the state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing. When we have total wellbeing, we can conduct critical operations at work thoroughly and safely. Total wellbeing is most important for crane operators who need to be alert and make good judgment calls when operating cranes. Let me share one example with you.
  19. A few years ago, a crane operator was operating a 16-storey high tower crane when he suddenly fell ill. He was too weak to climb down from the crane and had to be rescued by SCDF personnel. Fortunately, this episode of ill health did not result in any mishap. However, on another day, the outcome could have been different and perhaps more tragic.
  20. Let me also share with you one good practice by a Crane Supplier - Antar Cranes Services Pte Ltd. Antar Cranes manages work-related fatigue and ill-health of their workers. This includes ensuring that their crane operators have sufficient rest between job assignments through effective job scheduling. In addition, the company also ensures that the personal health issues of their operators are effectively managed. I hope more companies can implement such practices. By being mindful of the health and wellbeing of employees, companies will not only ensure better safety performances but a healthier and ultimately, more productive workforce.

    Conclusion
  21. A Total WSH approach is key to preventing crane-related accidents. We need the support of all our industry partners to work closely with us to achieve the target of less than 1 fatal injury per 100,000 worker by 2028.
  22. Let us all do our part to promote safety, health and well-being at work. With this, I thank you and wishing you a fruitful Symposium ahead.
Last Updated: 23 October 2017