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Construction sector accounts for more than half of workplace deaths

Action plans to get sector leaders to improve WSH management and performance

16 March 2011

  1. In the WSH Statistics Report issued by the Workplace Safety and Health Council (WSHC) today, the construction sector accounted for more than half of all work fatalities in 2010. While most sectors have shown improvements, the construction sector has stagnated in the past few years. This calls for serious action to be taken by construction leaders to improve management of safety at worksites.

    Construction leaders must lead the way
  2. The WSH Council will step up efforts to engage construction leaders to transform the way WSH is managed in worksites. The first group of leaders who will lead the way are the 19 developers and contractors which committed to achieving zero injuries through the "Pledge for Zero CEO Commitment Charter" in November 20081. At the Construction CEO roundtable discussion this morning, they committed to take on a stronger leadership role to move construction safety to new heights.

  3. The 19 Pledge for Zero companies have agreed to jointly embark on at least two key initiatives in 2011. First, they will spearhead the Safety and Health Active Review (SHARe) programme for their worksites. SHARe is developed by the WSHC to exert peer influence amongst companies to improve. It involves inter-workplace visits on a thematic approach, such as work at height or crane activities. Through this engagement, the companies will proactively share WSH management systems and good practices. More importantly, they will identify areas of concern, make recommendations and take actions to improve. Second, the companies will be incorporating the Design for Safety (DfS) programme in their new projects in 2011. To facilitate the adoption of DfS, they will be sending relevant personnel for the DfS Coordinator course.
  4. The two initiatives have both short and long-term impact. SHARe will help take immediate positive intervention actions in areas of concern while DfS will design out risks from the planning stage of a project so that workers will not be exposed to unnecessary risks downstream.
  5. Chairman of the WSH Council Construction and Landscaping Committee Jackson Yap said, "The 19 CEOs' commitment to some concrete actions is a good development. As these large companies account for many construction projects locally, they can help set the pace for smaller contractors. But, we need other players to follow this lead. Construction industry leaders must take action to transform the sector and improve WSH and productivity. They must eliminate risks at their worksites immediately. The various Council programmes can help them improve but they must be committed to make the changes."

    Commitment and Performance
  6. As a demonstration of their commitment, the 19 companies2 have upped their WSH investment from $40 million in 2009 to $60 million in 2010. All the companies have also put in place robust WSH management plans for their subcontractors. In terms of WSH performance, the number of construction fatalities contributed by these companies fell from 13 in 2009 to 7 in 2010. The median Accident Frequency Rate (AFR), which measures the number of accidents per million man-hours worked was 0.2, well below the industry AFR of 2.2. Two companies which have performed well are developer Fraser Centrepoint and Singapore’s Tiong Seng Contractors. Both have put many measures in place and did not see any fatalities in 2009 and 2010. Their performance set an example for others to emulate. Please see Annex A1 and A2 for their profiles.

    Focus on SME subcontractors
  7. Another important area that construction leaders will focus on is the management of SME subcontractors. These subcontractors employ the most workers, carry out most of the work and are the direct employers of most injured workers. Ongoing initiatives such as bizSAFE and RMAF have helped some SMEs but more must be done to address the issues they face.
  8. To better help SMEs improve WSH management, the WSHC has commenced a Construction WSH Study. Interviews are being carried out with key stakeholders in the construction value chain to unearth different challenges of various types of work, ranging from heavy construction work to simpler addition and alteration works. WSHC will formulate specific measures and solutions tailored to SMEs based on the study's findings later this year.

    Design for Safety mark
  9. In 2011, the WSHC will introduce the Design for Safety (DfS) Mark - a recognition scheme for developers who have adopted DfS principles in the planning and design stage of buildings. The mark will be awarded on a project basis after an assessment. Details of the scheme are being finalised and will be released later this year.
  10. Please see Annex B for more information on the construction initiatives. Industry stakeholders who want to find out more information about the above initiatives can visit the WSH Council website.

1 The companies committed to achieving zero injuries in their workplaces through adopting various key principles in how they manage WSH organisation-wide. More details in Annex A.

2 There were 20 PfZ companies in November 2008. Marina Bay Sands has since completed its project and will no longer be part of this group.

Annex A1 - Frasers Centrepoint Factsheet
Annex A2 - Tiong Seng Factsheet
Annex B - Factsheet on Construction Initiatives