Speech at BCAA-IOSH (Singapore) International Conference in Workplace Safety & Health for Construction Industry
Mr Hawazi Daipi, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Manpower, BCA Academy
Dr. John Keung, CEO, Building and Construction Authority (BCA)
Mr Subash Ludhra, President, Institution of Occupational Safety and Health or IOSH
Mr Benedict Tan, Managing Director, BCA Academy
Mr Harry Ho, Chairman, IOSH Singapore
Industry partners, Ladies and Gentlemen,
- A very good morning to all. I am pleased to join you at the International Conference in Workplace Safety and Health (or WSH) for the Construction Industry. My thanks to the BCA Academy (BCAA), IOSH(Singapore) and supporting partners for this inaugural conference, organised in support of the National WSH Campaign.
Significance of the Conference
- With the theme "Sharing and Learning WSH Excellence from Best Exemplars of Various Sectors", the conference provides a platform for the construction sector to learn from successful exemplars as they strive for continuous improvement of WSH standards.
- Today's conference is also the first collaboration between BCA and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health or iOSH (Singapore). Set up 60 years ago, iOSH is the world's largest professional health and safety organisation with more than 40,000 individual members. Besides professional development and capability building to raise standards of professionals across the globe, iOSH also has a Code of Conduct to self-regulate WSH professionals to provide expertise and world class professionalism.
- Singapore can benefit from iOSH's experience and its industry standards. Hence, I am pleased to announce the MOU signing today between the BCA Academy and iOSH. This partnership will help Singapore and the region to advance and promote WSH excellence in the built environment. I look forward to more initiatives arising from this MOU to provide our local health and safety professionals with good insights into how we can better address WSH challenges.
BCA's efforts in driving WSH in the Construction Sector
- Besides this collaboration, BCA, as the regulator for the Construction industry, and its training arm, the BCA Academy (BCAA), has worked closely with MOM and WSH Council to push for better safety standards in the construction sector.
- The support from BCA is crucial as the construction sector has consistently been the biggest contributor to workplace deaths in Singapore, even in 2011 when there was an overall drop in fatalities and injuries in the sector. While the sector's fatality rate fell from 8.1 per 100,000 employed persons in 2010 to 5.3 in 2011, 22 workers still lost their lives. Another 1,900 were injured and 170,000 man days were lost due to work accidents. The difficulties in raising safety standards are further exacerbated by the anticipated increase in on-site Construction activities this year, due to strong construction demand.
- The construction sector and its many stakeholders will need to work harder if it aims to achieve its sectoral plan's vision to halve the construction fatality rate by 2013 to less than 3.5. To achieve this and in line with our National WSH Campaign launched in April, we want companies and individuals to pay special attention to why accidents happen and prevent their recurrence. We know that many accidents stem from dangerous assumptions being made at work, for example, assuming that workers know how to hook up when working at height. We urge all stakeholders to put an end to making assumptions at work and be personally responsible.
- For example, company management must recognise the need to get all their employees on board safety. The astute players in the construction business see safety initiatives as investments because they fully understand the cost burden of illness and injury. Better accident prevention strategies mean fewer injuries. This means that work will not be stopped for investigation or to replace properties and damaged machines. Workers will also maintain high morale and stay productive. Thus, the benefits are clear. While we recognise the importance of safety and its contribution to productivity, what more can we do to save lives and raise productivity at the same time? BCA’s productivity drive is one good example. It has yielded positive outcomes not only for productivity but also for safety.
- As part of BCA's Construction Productivity Roadmap, incentives are provided through a $250 million Construction Productivity & Capability Fund to help the industry adopt technologies that will raise productivity and improve safety. For example, demolition contractors can tap on the Mechanisation Credit scheme to defray the cost of a robotic demolition machine. This machine, used in building demolition works, reduces noise levels at the site and enables workers to operate it from a distance, thus protecting them from flying debris. It can reach higher work areas without the need for scaffolds. As of May 2012, about $46million has been committed from the fund to help the industry.
- Another initiative by BCA that enhances safety is its Buildable Design and Constructability framework. BCA encourages businesses to look at the constructability of buildings to improve productivity from as early as the design phase. The framework drives the use of labour-efficient designs and construction methods that also raise safety standards. For example, with precast construction, there is no need for external scaffolding to carry out the finishing works which expose workers to the risk of falling from heights. Instead, the site is scaffold-free, neat and tidy.
- Such initiatives complement the WSH Council's push for the implementation of Design for Safety (or DfS) principles. The DfS programme gets clients, designers and contractors to reduce WSH risks early through design upstream and enhanced project management. It improves safety and productivity. Various developers have piloted DfS including JTC, LTA, MOE, City Developments Limited (CDL).
- Let me highlight some examples of how DfS can prevent accidents. Through the creative use of design, simple solutions can be developed. For example, windows could be designed to prevent falls from heights during cleaning, through the use of innovative new materials such as self-cleaning glass, the use of reversible windows or even designing the dimensions of window panels such that all corners are easily within reach for cleaning, as is the case in the Interlace project by CapitaLand Residential Singapore.
- DfS is also applicable for small projects such as ensuring safe design and construction within residential estates to address challenges affecting neighbouring properties. For example, at the design stage for Residences Botanique by Frasers Centrepoint, the risk assessment of the basement excavation and piling works was found to pose high possibility of damage to nearby pre-war shop houses sitting on brick foundation. With this in mind, design considerations recommend reducing the depth of basement excavation and use Jack–In-Pile with close monitoring system. This work was completed safely in April 2012 for both workers and the shop houses.
- All these efforts in technology advances and design safety, however, cannot stand alone. They must be supported by well trained workers equipped with safety knowledge and skills to perform their work safely and efficiently. In this aspect, BCA Academy, in collaboration with the WSH Council, has achieved great strides in training. BCA Academy’s Centre for WSH Training in Construction aims to raise the WSH capabilities of the construction industry by providing quality training and education to foster a safe and healthy environment.
- The Centre offers a comprehensive range of WSH training programmes for construction personnel ranging from workers and supervisors to managers and CEOs of construction related firms. These include bizSAFE training programmes and mandatory safety courses for workers and supervisors. Just for the WSH Professional Certification programmes alone, more than 1,700 WSH professionals have benefited.
- I am also pleased to share that the Centre has just set up a new WSH Learning Gallery. The interactive learning gallery provides students studying safety courses here experiential learning about WSH hazards and preventive measures in the construction industry. It also showcases WSH best practices in key areas such as work-at-heights, confined spaces, risk management practices, occupational health hazards and appropriate use of PPE. The gallery will be opened to both workers and public, with tours and bookings arranged in advance. I urge all of you to visit the gallery, experience its features during the conference breaks and get your colleagues to visit it as well.
- In conclusion, I would like to encourage the building and construction sector to work closely and cohesively so that we can reduce injuries in the sector together. Let me repeat our call to stakeholders during the National WSH Campaign – Do not make assumptions at work that can lead to accidents. Take on personal responsibility. We seek your support to "Stop The Assumptions. Stop Work Accidents". Thank you and I wish the participants a fruitful and enjoyable conference.