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Oral Answer by Mr Sam Tan, Minister of State for Manpower, to Parliamentary Question on reviewing blacklisting framework


MP: Mr Desmond Choo

To ask the Minister for Manpower in view of the recent construction mishap at the TPE-PIE viaduct (a) whether the Ministry will review the current blacklisting framework; (b) how can the Ministry work with BCA to debar blacklisted companies from working on projects rather than just bar them from hiring new workers or renew existing ones; and (c) whether companies need to prove that they have taken remedial steps including improving worker safety training before having the blacklist status removed.

  1. MOM has the Demerit Point System and Business Under Surveillance (BUS) programme to deter construction companies from unsafe work practices and to compel poor performers to improve. They are reviewed regularly to maintain their effectiveness. 
  2. We issue demerit points to companies that are fined, issued a stop-work-order or prosecuted for safety offences. The Demerit Point System was amended in 2015 following consultation with the industry and tripartite partners. There were two significant changes. First, the demerit points will last for 18 months, up from 12 months previously. Second, companies that accumulate 25 demerit points are “blacklisted” by being debarred from hiring foreign workers. In the past, they could continue to hire foreign workers but at a higher levy. Since the review, MOM has issued about 2,400 demerit points to 223 companies. 25 of these companies were debarred from hiring foreign workers. 
  3. Companies with poor safety management will be placed under the Business Under Surveillance (BUS) programme. They will have their bizSAFE certification revoked and be closely supervised by MOM to rectify all identified lapses. BUS was enhanced in 2016 to have broader entry criteria. Previously, a company needed to have systemic safety infringements to be put on BUS, even if they had a fatal accident. Since May 2016, any company with a Stop Work Order or any fatality are placed under the BUS programme immediately. To exit from BUS, companies need to demonstrate to MOM that they have taken sufficient remedial steps to improve its WSH performance. This includes conducting refresher training for all workers on any unsafe practices found. On average, this process takes at least one year. Since the enhancement, we have placed 25 companies on the BUS programme. 
  4. We are coordinating with other government agencies including BCA to review procurement practices for construction projects. Agencies handling key public projects such as JTC and LTA, already take into account bidders’ safety record such as demerit points, bizSAFE or BUS status in their procurement assessment. We also make available the list of BUS and debarred companies on our website. 
  5. With the enhanced enforcement regime, it has helped to reduce construction workplace fatalities from 27 in 2015 to 24 in 2016, and to 4 in 2017 to date. While we take companies with poor safety records to task, they should also be given an opportunity to improve their safety record and performance. In fact, many companies which went through our BUS programme have exited and attained good safety standards. Some have even won safety and health awards locally and internationally. MOM will continue to monitor developments and refine our regulatory framework where needed to strengthen WSH performance in Singapore.