Oral Answer to PQ on Hoisting Operations Safety Measures and Heightened Safety Period
NOTICE PAPER NO. 1622 and 1674 OF 2023 FOR THE SITTING ON OR AFTER 6 FEB 2023
QUESTION NO. 4080 AND 4172 FOR ORAL ANSWER
MP: Mr Melvin Yong Yik Chye
To ask the Minister for Manpower in view of the recent workplace fatalities involving hoisting operations (a) what are the measures in place to ensure that such operations are carried out safely for the workers involved; and (b) how many safety inspections relating to hoisting works has the Ministry conducted in 2022 and what are the key findings from these inspections.
MP: Mr Melvin Yong Yik Chye
To ask the Minister for Manpower pertaining to the Heightened Safety Period (HSP) which started in September 2022 for workplaces and is due to expire on 28 February 2023 (a) whether the Ministry intends to extend the HSP; and (b) if not, why not.
Arising from the spate of workplace fatalities in the first half of 2022, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) had progressively rolled out interventions to increase enforcement, engagement and penalties; and introduced a 6-month Heightened Safety Period (HSP) to instil a stronger safe operations culture and place greater accountability on senior management.
Since the start of the HSP in Sep 2022, 14 companies, found with serious Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) lapses following serious or fatal workplace incidents, were debarred from hiring new foreign employees for up to three months, and their Chief Executive Officers had to personally account to MOM to take responsibility for the rectifications. More than 760 composition fines and a total of 48 Stop Work Orders (SWOs) have been issued to errant companies thus far. The Ministry is working closely with these companies to ensure that the WSH lapses are rectified.
To further strengthen WSH in the construction sector, since Oct 2022, the Ministry had introduced a harmonised set of disqualification criteria across all public sector construction tenders. We also enhanced the Demerit Point System, where construction companies with consistently poor WSH performance will reach the penalty thresholds more quickly, after which they will be temporarily debarred from hiring foreign employees. Based on our inspection findings, we observed a 21% improvement in enforcement actions per inspection for Construction. However, it remained the top contributor for workplace fatalities and major injuries in 2022.
The Ministry shares the Member’s concerns over fatalities involving hoisting operations, with two recent incidents in Dec 2022. Lifting operations are one of the high-risk work activities that MOM inspects within worksites. From the inspections conducted last year, some of the commonly observed contraventions include failure to ensure lifting equipment were properly tested and examined by authorised examiners before use, lack of planning and establishment of lifting procedures, and non-compliance to lifting plans. We will work with industry to study further how to address these gaps.
For the 2022 WSH performance, there was a total of 46 workplace fatalities, with a fatality rate of 1.3 per 100,000 workers in 2022, compared to 1.1 per 100,000 workers in both 2021 and 2019 (pre-covid). 80% of all fatal and major injuries were from the traditionally higher-risk industries – Construction, Manufacturing, Transportation & Storage, and some services industries. Falls from height, vehicular incidents and crane-related incidents accounted for more than 60% of all fatalities. The main reasons for these fatalities were inadequate control measures or safety procedures, poor implementation of control measures and unsafe behaviours by workers. These are preventable safety lapses and the ultimate root causes are that management accountability, incentives and training for WSH need strengthening.
Overall, the HSP measures have helped to abate the spate of workplace fatalities, with the annualised fatality rate per 100,000 workers reducing significantly from 1.5 for Jan-Aug 2022, which was before HSP, to 0.8 for Sep-Dec 2022 during HSP. This suggests that with sufficient resolve, the industry can keep the fatality rate below 1.0 per 100,000 workers, which is our WSH 2028 aspiration – thus far, only four countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have achieved this fatality rate.
The major injury rate per 100,000 workers saw improvements, from 18.5 in 2021 and 18.1 in 2019 to 17.3 in 2022. However, the annualised major injury rates worsened during HSP. More needs to be done to bring us back on track to our WSH 2028 target of less than 12.0 per 100,000 workers. The impact of HSP across the higher-risk industries is also varied. Construction saw the most improvement, where the monthly average number of fatal and major injuries decreased during HSP. For Manufacturing, the monthly average number of fatal and major injuries worsened during HSP. Similarly for Transportation & Storage and higher-risk services industries, the monthly average number of major injuries worsened during HSP, suggesting upward pressures remained.
The Multi-Agency Workplace Safety Taskforce, comprising lead agencies of the sectors that contribute most of the fatal and major injuries, was set up as part of the HSP and is developing broad-based and sectoral WSH strategies. The International Advisory Panel (IAP) for WSH was also convened last month to bring international experts to weigh in on how Singapore can improve WSH. The Government has accepted the eight key recommendations by the IAP. Members can refer to the IAP for WSH Report for details of the recommendations and the 2022 WSH performance for each sector.
While we have seen some improvement, we need to remain alert and maintain our vigilance. The Ministry is reviewing the next steps when HSP ends in Feb. Extension of HSP is being considered as well as further measures to strengthen and entrench WSH incentives and culture.
Every worker deserves a safe and healthy working environment. All of us, corporate senior leadership, industry associations, union leaders and workers, must continue to play our part to uplift WSH.