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Speech at Crane Safety Symposium 2013

Mr Hawazi Daipi, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Manpower, Singapore Expo Max Atria Garnet Room

Mr Akbar Kader, Chairman, National Crane Safety Taskforce,
Industry partners,
Ladies and gentlemen,

  1. Good morning. I am pleased to join you at this year’s Crane Safety Symposium, organised by the National Crane Safety Taskforce in collaboration with Ministry of Manpower and the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council. I am heartened to see more than 400 participants here today and I would like to thank each and every one of you for supporting our efforts to improve the safety of Crane Operations at our workplaces.

    Crane-Related WSH Performance
  2. Crane operations have come under intense scrutiny of late. Most participants here will be familiar with the recent spate of crane accidents, including the high-profile tower crane accident along Coleman Street last month, which unfortunately killed two workers and severely injuring another four. The accident would have had more far-reaching implications resulting in more deaths, including the public if it happened along a crowded road, especially when the counter weight crashed. I would like everyone to take a moment to think about the impact of these accidents on the lives of the affected workers and their families. Some have lost their source of livelihood while others will never be able to live or work the same way again.
  3. These recent accidents are a stern reminder that we cannot afford to be even a bit complacent about workplace safety, in particular crane safety. While we have seen a slight improvement in the accident figures over the past year, one life lost or injured is still one too many. More needs to be done to make crane operations safer.
  4. First, with an increase in construction activities in Singapore in recent years, crane usage will inevitably grow as the machine is a mainstay of a typical construction project. Moreover, in densely built-up cities such as Singapore, it is even more critical that crane operations are carried out safely, as any misstep can potentially cause grievous harm to workers and the public.
  5. Second, as many of you present will know, crane accidents do not just occur by chance. Crane accidents are often a result of a chain of systemic lapses or gaps, such as inadequate planning, incompetency of the lifting team, unsafe practices and acts, as well as poor maintenance or upkeep of the cranes. Therefore, it is important that companies do not assume that all is well when there are no accidents. Instead, they should remain vigilant, through steps such as conducting proper Risk Assessments to manage risks for every lifting operation in a planned way and ultimately ensure that there are no weak links in the entire chain of control measures for crane operations.
  6. Crane-related accidents can be prevented if every employee, from top management down to the last worker, makes safety both their personal responsibility and a personal routine as part of their job. This, coupled with adequate planning, training and proper attention to safety controls, will translate to a stronger workplace safety culture that is focused on accident prevention. That is what we want to develop in any organisation – the culture of safety. We want our workers to be able to work in a safe environment.

    Enforcement of Crane Safety
  7. On the enforcement front, MOM conducts regular targeted enforcement operations focusing on cranes to check on safety compliance and to understand how crane operations are being managed on the ground. To illustrate, our Occupational Safety & Health Division officers recently conducted one such exercise, codenamed “Operation Skylark”, focusing on crane safety. The Operation targeted largely Mobile and Crawler Cranes as their frequent movements pose challenges to developing effective lifting plans and the safe conduct of lifting activities. These types of Cranes have also been involved in more accidents. The operation uncovered 189 serious violations of crane safety regulations. As a result of the violations, we have issued fines to two-thirds of the 90 sites inspected. This operation reaffirms the key problems that have been plaguing the industry such as failure to implement proper lifting plans, improper rigging of loads and poor upkeep of the cranes and its lifting gears and attachments.
  8. While our inspectors continue to conduct regular safety checks, I strongly urge the crane industry to take ownership of their worker’s safety. Cranes can be a hazard if they are not operated or maintained in accordance with safe practices.
  9. MOM takes a serious view of companies who blatantly flout crane safety rules and will impose stringent enforcement actions against such offenders. My colleague from MOM will share more details on the operation later in the Symposium.

    Crane Safety Efforts – Industry Partnership
  10. Nevertheless, we must all bear in mind that enforcement cannot be our only way of ensuring good WSH practices. It is with this in mind that MOM and the WSH Council formed the National Crane Safety Taskforce in September 2009 to improve safety of crane operations as well as to promote industry ownership of good lifting practices.
  11. Comprising industry stakeholders such as crane contractors, manufacturers, suppliers, industry associations and Public Sector Developers, the Taskforce has been providing industry leadership to make recommendations and roll out initiatives to improve Crane Safety. In its first term, the Taskforce rolled out competency standards for lifting personnel, developed a Code of Practice for Safe Lifting Operations and other guidance materials. It also supported the legislation review for the WSH (Operations of Cranes) Regulations. In its second term, which commenced in December last year, the Taskforce has been emphasising the effective implementation of initiatives rolled out in the first term and to drive greater industry ownership of crane safety. Allow me to share some of the key initiatives the Taskforce is currently working on.

    Guidelines on Establishment and Implementation of Lifting Plans
  12. First, to address a critical issue on the implementation of Lifting Plans, an industry workgroup has been formed under the Taskforce to develop Industry Guidelines and bridge the competency gaps in the proper development and use of lifting plans by the crane industry. Since the enactment of the WSH (Operations of Cranes) Regulations, companies must now develop and implement a proper Lifting Plan for all Lifting Operation involving Cranes. Unfortunately, enforcement findings and industry feedback have highlighted that many Lifting Plans implemented today are not comprehensive. In addition, there have been numerous instances of lifting operations failing to adhere to lifting plans. This is a serious issue because without proper planning, operations involving complex machinery such as cranes will be more prone to errors and accidents.

    Study of Accidents Involving Crawler Cranes
  13. Second, to understand the root causes of accidents so as to identify effective ways to address them, the Taskforce will be publishing the results of a study on accidents involving crawler cranes early next year. Past statistics have shown that many crane-related incidents involve crawler cranes. Such studies will help the Taskforce to better understand the cause of such accidents, and make effective recommendations to prevent and minimise recurrences.

    Industry Engagement
  14. Third, the Taskforce will continue to drive and support industry engagement activities to raise awareness about crane safety and help the industry stakeholders improve their overall WSH knowledge. One example is the series of WSH Clinics on crane safety that the Taskforce is organising to provide compliance assistance to companies. At these Clinics, the Taskforce will share best practices for safe lifting operations and provide guidance on implementing good lifting plans.
  15. In addition, the Taskforce supports events organised by industry associations to raise WSH awareness in the crane workforce. For instance, the Taskforce is involved in the forthcoming Inaugural Crane Carnival 2013, co-organised by the Singapore Contractors Association Ltd and the Singapore Crane Association, which aims to raise awareness about key developments in the crane industry and showcase the professionalism of the crane workforce. There will be a WSH Workshop for Lifting Teams, Lifting Skills Competition, Cranes Exhibits and Skills Stations which will provide hands-on learning for skills required in lifting. The event will be held at BCA Academy on 17 November 2013. I encourage contractors and crane owners to send your workers to the practical workshops and form teams to participate in the skills competition.

    Adoption of Technology to improve Crane Safety – the Use of Data Loggers
  16. Fourth, the Taskforce has been working closely with the industry on exploring the adoption of new technologies to improve WSH practices. I have earlier shared with the Industry that MOM constantly explores new technologies and solutions to better manage and monitor crane safety conditions on the ground. An example worth highlighting is the implementation of Data Loggers on cranes at workplaces. Though not currently mandatory, some industry players such as LTA have taken the initiative to require Data Loggers on cranes at some workplaces. As I have shared with you last year, the benefits of Data Loggers are multi-fold. First, the information recorded and stored in the Data Loggers can assist crane stakeholders to better plan their lifting operations to optimise the safe use of the cranes. This will greatly improve productivity and facilitate better planning. Second, the Data Loggers allow for better monitoring of the performance of the crane operators by recording critical operational data of the cranes. In doing so, it can help to shape the behaviour of crane operators by encouraging them to be more vigilant and to be more safety conscious in their day to day operations.
  17. We have since received positive feedback from the industry players on the use of Data Loggers on cranes. However, I understand that there are also some genuine concerns regarding the practical applications of Data Loggers. As such, MOM together with key industry partners such as LTA, HDB and Dragages Singapore Pte Ltd, have launched a Pilot Trial on the use of Data Loggers on mobile cranes in September this year to specifically look into these concerns. MOM plans to complete the pilot trial sometime at the end of the year and may consider making Data Loggers mandatory for certain cranes based on findings of the Pilot Trial.
  18. Lastly, we are taking a deeper look into the human factors that may have an adverse impact on crane safety and make the necessary recommendations for improvement. This is based on feedback that some crane operators are employed under poor working conditions, which may in turn affect the safety of the operators as well as the workers around him. Such adverse working conditions might include long working hours with little or no rest breaks, and poor ergonomics. While the extent of this problem needs to be further verified, we believe that with improved working conditions, the industry would not only be able to improve the safety conditions of the workplace and improve the morale of crane operators but also attract more locals to take up this job, which is a perennial issue that the industry is facing.

  19. Since the formation of the National Crane Safety Taskforce, we have seen some progress in the crane industry in terms of enhancing competencies and safety standards. Nonetheless, more needs to be done to ensure that WSH issues remain the top priority for the industry. In light of the recent crane accidents, I ask the Crane Industry to make safety a priority and personal responsibility. We must press on with our ongoing efforts and strong ownership of WSH, and work hand-in-hand with regulators – government, MOM, WSH Council, crane operators, the workforce, crane owners and contractors. If we all can work together, I’m sure we can make crane and lifting operations even safer. With this collaboration, only then can we move closer to realising our vision of ‘Zero Crane Accidents’. I wish you a fruitful Symposium ahead. Thank you.