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MOM, SCAL, SISO and WSHC Take Concerted and Urgent Actions to Improve Workplace Safety in Construction Sector

  1. Concerted and urgent actions are needed by all industry stakeholders to improve Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) in the construction sector.
  2. Over a span of less than a week between 19 and 24 May, three construction workers have died at work. This brings the total number of deaths in the construction sector to 15, up from 8 in the same time period last year. These accidents could have been prevented if more robust WSH systems are in place and safety procedures are followed (see Annex).
  3. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) recognised that a multi-prong approach is needed to address the situation. MOM has announced in its Committee of Supply this year that tougher actions may be needed if the WSH situation does not improve. In view of an increase in the number of workplace fatalities this year, MOM introduced stiffer enforcement penalties and enhanced support programmes on 12 May 2016. When the new Workplace Safety and Health (Design for Safety) Regulations come into effect in August 2016, developers and designers will also have a duty to ensure the safety and health of workers in the construction industry.
  4. Beyond stepped up inspections and stiffer penalties, greater awareness, better training and stronger support to workers and companies is needed. MOM, the Singapore Contractors Association Ltd (SCAL), Singapore Institution of Safety Officers (SISO) and Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council will therefore take additional steps to address the situation.

    Intensifying outreach and education efforts
  5. Strong, effective and visible leadership is vital to drive good WSH performance in companies. At the same time, we must learn from every accident and increase workers’ awareness of risks at their workplaces. The following two initiatives will be rolled out
    1. SCAL will launch the “Construction Safety Promotion Month” in June. As part of this campaign, a series of “CEO Site Safety Awareness” activities will have CEOs of SCAL member companies personally conduct site safety awareness activity at worksites under their charge. This is to send a strong message that construction safety is not just the concern of safety officers, but also the CEO.
    2. SISO will work with MOM to promptly communicate the learning points from fatal accidents to the workers through SISO’s network of members. This will involve distilling the key facts or learning points and disseminating the information through relevant communication channels. WSH officers can incorporate and share these learning points with their workers.

    Strengthening safety training of workers
  6. Effective training of workers in WSH is essential to prevent accidents and ill-health at the workplace. The importance of safety training extends beyond a worker's introduction to the job. It also encompasses situations when his job or working conditions change. Without an understanding of safety practices related to his job, a worker will be at a higher risk for workplace death, injury, or illness.
  7. SCAL, in collaboration with Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore (REDAS) and WSH Council, will release a set of Safety Induction Training materials for construction workers by third quarter in 2016. The materials will be more user-friendly, and include illustrations of safety practices.

    Enhancing WSH support to companies
  8. While ensuring WSH is every employer’s responsibility, some companies need help to improve their WSH systems and processes. As previously announced, MOM has introduced the Safety Compliance Assistance Visits Plus (SCAV+) which is open for sign-ups in end June 2016. Under this programme, certified WSH professionals will work with company management to identify WSH lapses and recommend appropriate control measures to minimize risks. WSHC, SCAL and SISO will be encouraging companies to take up the free assistance.

    Everyone need to work together to improve WSH
  9. Mr Bernard Soh, President, SISO, said “SISO strongly advocates that every stakeholder involved in the workplace, from workers to supervisors, senior management and business owners, must take personal responsibility to ensure a safer workplace. Everyone must collectively work towards achieving the goal of zero fatality. Regular inspections are important but on their own do not provide adequate deterrence. It is unfortunate that we have to resort to punitive measures such as fines and Stop Work Orders (SWOs) as these are often more effective against those who continue to put lives at risk. SISO strongly urges all parties to take personal and collective responsibility to ensure a safer workplace.
  10. Mr Kenneth Loo, President, SCAL, said, “SCAL will work closely with WSHC and MOM to step up efforts in promoting safety practices, and support in rolling out the SCAV+. We will also initiate urgent discussions with industry stakeholders at the Construction Industry Joint Committee (CIJC) to review safety from the whole value chain approach. SCAL adopts a three-pronged approach to help members build a proactive safety culture. Firstly, the leadership of construction firms must undertake safety pre-planning an integral part of every project. Secondly, SCAL will continue to provide training and assistance to enhance the WSH skills of our members, reducing the gap between the safety procedures and practices. Thirdly, SCAL will promote the adoption of advanced construction methods such as prefabrication to enhance workers’ safety.
  11. Mr Heng Chiang Gnee, Chairman, WSH Council, said, “WSH Council welcomes SISO’s and SCAL’s efforts to address the poor WSH performance in the construction sector and to make sure safety messages reach every worker.”
  12. Mr Sam Tan, Minister of State, Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Manpower said, “I would like to urge all stakeholders to take urgent and concerted actions to improve workplace safety in the construction sector. Leaders need to demonstrate commitment to WSH and walk the talk. Managers need to strengthen supervision and conduct effective training. Workers need to pay attention to workplace safety and adhere to safety processes. We must all embrace the belief that every worker has the right to go home unharmed every day, and that all harm is preventable. MOM has and will continue to take steps to improve WSH but we cannot do this alone. We need the support from employers, industry associations and workers to prevent the next workplace fatality. Let us all work together to achieve this.