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Speech at Programme-Based Engagement (ProBE) Plus Forum 2014

Mr Hawazi Daipi, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Manpower, Raffles City Convention Centre

Industry leaders
Ladies and gentlemen,

  1. Good afternoon. I am pleased to join you at today’s Programme-Based Engagement Plus, or in short, the ProBE Plus Forum 2014.

    Industry’s role in improving WSH
  2. The ProBE Plus programme was launched in 2006 to raise standards and improve industry practices in areas with poor workplace safety and health records. The intent is to organise focus efforts in partnership with the industry to address priority areas identified. For 2014, the programme will focus on three priority areas – Work at Heights, Crane Safety and Formwork Safety.
  3. The WSH Statistics Report 2013 which we have released today1 shows a worrying trend. Of the 59 workplace fatalities in 2013, 33 were from the construction sector. In just the first three months of 2014, we had 19 fatalities of which 12 were from construction. We also saw a 27% increase in construction fatalities in 2013 compared to 2012.
  4. An examination of the WSH Statistics Report 2013 indicates that of the 17 fatal accidents involving falls, 14 arose from working at height. Four fatalities and 19 dangerous occurrences involved cranes and four workers were killed in formwork-related incidents last year. There is a growing trend in formwork-related incidents which has persisted up to recent months. So far this year, we have already seen three fatal formwork-related incidents.
  5. We have said this many times before, but it bears repeating. These accidents could have been prevented through proper management of workplace hazards. Hence, we need to intensify our efforts to improve standards in working at heights, crane and formwork activities. We all need to play our part in these three areas. We need greater industry engagement and ownership. We need to step up capability building efforts. We also need increased enforcement. Let me elaborate on what we will do in the three areas.

    Enhancing work at heights practices through capability building
  6. First, work at heights. Our efforts to improve safety for working at heights began in 2009 with the formation of the industry-led National Work at Heights Taskforce. The many programmes and initiatives driven by the Taskforce have helped to reduce the number of fatalities from 24 in 2009 to 14 in 2013. Nonetheless, we need to do more to further reduce such accidents as it is still the top contributor to workplace fatalities.
  7. I have shared at last year’s ProBE Plus Forum that the WSH (Work at Heights) Regulations will cover all workplaces from 1 May 2014, together with the mandatory requirements to put in place a Fall Prevention Plan (FPP) and “Permit to Work” (PTW) system. We have received feedback from the industry, particularly from the small and medium enterprises in lower-risk sectors on their implementation challenges to fulfil these mandatory requirements. We have done a review and will refine the regulatory requirements for PTW to be applicable only to workplaces that are classified as factories2. Non-factories workplaces will however still be subjected to the General Provisions in the Regulations such as avoidance of work at heights and requirements for open sides and floor openings. This change will take effect on 1 May 20143.
  8. The WSH Council will be launching two awareness videos to raise the awareness and help the industry better understand the regulations requirements. Titled “Guide to the WAH Regulations” and “Guidance to implement the PTW system”, the videos will highlight important concepts such as key regulatory requirements, various types of work activities that constitute as work at height and the process of a PTW system.

    Raising crane safety standards
  9. Next, crane safety. There is an urgency to ramp up the awareness and performance in the area of crane safety. With the recent introduction of measures by the Building and Construction Authority to boost construction productivity by adopting technologies such as prefabrication, we can expect more cranes to be deployed to execute extensive heavy lifting operations. Any accident involving cranes can be catastrophic, potentially harming workers and the public.
  10. We have revised the Code of Practice on Safe Lifting Operations in the Workplaces and the Guidebook for Lifting Supervisors, to help the industry better understands the importance of a lifting operation team and the implementation of key requirements when conducting lifting operations. A copy of the Code of Practice is included in the collateral bag on your seat and can also be downloaded from the WSH Council website.

    Initiatives to help industry address formwork issues
  11. Lastly, formwork safety is a new ProBE priority area for this year. The increasing trend of formwork accidents since July 2013 is a major concern. In November last year, my Ministry sought opinions and feedback from key industry stakeholders such as formwork suppliers and end-users on the contributory factors to the increased spate of incidents and ways to enhance formwork safety standards within the industry.
  12. The stakeholders indicated that one of the factors was that formwork supervisors and workers lacked the required skills. To address this, the WSH Council and my Ministry will review the competency framework and regulatory guidelines for formwork safety.
  13. First, to raise industry’s capability, the existing formwork safety course for supervisors will be enhanced to include additional components. This will strengthen the current course in key areas such as safe work practices for formwork installation, formwork methodology and proper use of personal protective equipment for working at heights. The revised course will be made available through existing Accredited Training Providers by May 2014.
  14. Second, the WSH Council is developing a new curriculum development advisory for a formwork safety course for workers, to address the current lack of formwork-specific training. This course will cover key workplace hazards, including formwork-related hazards such as fall from heights, and the safety precautions and measures relating to the erection and dismantling of formwork operations. The curriculum development advisory will be ready by July 2014 for Accredited Training Providers to develop the course.
  15. Third, on the regulatory front, the WSH (Construction) Regulations will be reviewed to provide clearer guidance about the requirements for safe use, erection and dismantling of formwork structures. Consultations on the regulations to gather initial feedback from the industry and other agencies have already commenced and enhancements to the regulations will be announced in 2015.

    Improving WSH outcome through increased enforcement reach
  16. To complement the above initiatives, my Ministry will step up our enforcement efforts on construction worksites to ensure that proper measures are implemented on the ground. We will not hesitate to impose tough measures to correct poor practices and deter malpractices by contractors. With our recently enhanced regulatory framework, we will be imposing stronger penalties for WSH contraventions as well as tightening enforcement tools such as minimum period for Stop Work Orders to allow for safety training and more stringent criteria to exit the Business under Surveillance Programme.

    Conclusion
  17. These are sobering times that require urgent and concerted action on everyone’s part. We need to stem the increasing number of fatal accidents that have beset upon us. One life loss is one too many. Therefore, I urge the companies to step up on their WSH efforts and put in place proper measures to safeguard the lives of the workers. With concerted efforts from all stakeholders, we can create a safer workplace for everyone. I wish everyone a fruitful and successful forum. Thank you.

1 Please refer to Annex A for the press release on the details of the WSH Statistics 2013 Report.
2 Factories are defined under the WSH Act as any premises within which persons are employed in any of the prescribed processes and as specified in the Fourth Schedule. They are typically higher risk workplaces and include construction worksite, shipyards and petrochemical plants.
3 Please refer to Annex B for more details on the changes to the regulations.