Speech at the Crane Safety Symposium
Mr Sam Tan, Minister of State, Prime Minister's Office and Ministry of Manpower, Singapore Expo Max Atria
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good afternoon to all of you!
- I am pleased to join you at the Crane Safety Symposium 2015. This is an annual event to raise awareness on crane safety. This is also my first event after joining the Ministry of Manpower (or MOM) and I am happy to see more than 300 participants here today. To you and our industry partners – Singapore Contractors Association Limited, Singapore Crane Association and Building Construction Authority, thank you for supporting the effort for safer crane operations.
Importance of crane safety
- Working safely with cranes is extremely important. When we deal with such heavy and big machines, we have to be extremely cautious. Crane accidents can have a catastrophic impact on the safety and health of not only workers, but also people nearby. Let me cite some examples. In May this year in New York, a crane reportedly dropped its load, damaging a building and injuring 10 workers. In the crane collapse that happened at the Grand Mosque in Mecca last month, more than 100 people were killed and over 200 injured. Nearer home, the crane collapse at the National Art Gallery just 2 years ago killed 2 workers. The true cost of workplace accidents is borne by workers, their families and in some instances, the public. The damage is irrevocable and nothing can replace the lives that have been destroyed. One live lost is one too many.
- Today, the symposium will focus on addressing key areas of concern in crane safety. If we want to improve crane safety, we need to understand the issues and work together to address them.
- Let me first share with you some workplace safety and health statistics in the crane industry. In the first eight months of 2015, there have been 17 dangerous crane-related occurrences. Just yesterday, 2 more cranes collapsed. These are near misses which could have easily resulted in multiple fatalities. Compare this with the nine dangerous occurrences for the same period in 2014. This is worrying.
- It is therefore important that the Government work closely with the industry to tackle these issues urgently. I am glad that MOM, Workplace Safety and Health (or WSH) Council National Crane Safety Taskforce and relevant stakeholders have been working closely to raise crane safety standards and address WSH hotspots in crane operations. Let me highlight four joint initiatives.
Improve employability of crane operators
- First, in consultation with the National Crane Safety Taskforce, MOM has reviewed and will enhance the medical examination requirements for crane operators. Currently, registered crane operators aged 60 and above are required to undergo health checks every two years. From 1st April 2016, crane operators will be required to go for earlier health checks starting from 50 years old. The earlier health checks will improve the employability of crane operators by enabling crane operators to identify early signs of ill health so that we can manage the conditions early. This also helps to prevent future health risks and crane operators can remain in the profession longer.
- As crane operators have direct control over the crane’s movements, their health condition is critical to ensure crane safety. Medical conditions can affect the crane operator’s ability to perform his work safely. Hence, having systematic, regular checks will be beneficial for crane operators in the long term to ensure they are healthy and fit for work. In turn, this contributes to a safer working environment for himself and the people around him.
Raising competency of mini crane operators
- Second, MOM will raise the competency of mini crane operators by requiring them to attend a specialised training course for mini cranes recognised by the Commissioner for WSH. “Mini cranes” are mobile cranes with safe working load of five tonnes and less. With the training, mini crane operators do not need a license from MOM from 1st January 2016. The course will enable mini crane operators to receive specific training and raise their competency in operating mini cranes safely and efficiently. Crane operators who hold a valid mobile or crawler crane license can continue to operate mini cranes. My colleague from MOM will share more on these changes later.
Registry of Cranes Operations Resources Database (iReCORDs)
- Third, the Singapore Crane Association, with the support of WSH Council, MOM and SPRING Singapore, will set up a database of crane operators called “iReCORDS” to track crane operators’ experience level and their safety track record by mid-2016. With the database, employers would be able to select the candidate needed to operate a similar tonnage of crane based on his experience and training received. This registry can also pave the way for a continual training programme to ensure that crane operators are adequately trained and continue to maintain a good safety record. Crane operators will also be able to tap on this platform to showcase their work experience and relevant skills and safety records to potential employers. This will help to increase the employability of crane operators in the long term.
Urge industry to tap on data logger funding
- Fourth, to help industry cope with the costs of installing data loggers in mobile cranes, the WSH Council has launched a co-funding scheme. The Data Logger Fund for Cranes covers up to 50% of the installation cost, or up to $5,000 per mobile crane. The data logger records data on the mobile crane’s operations, and whether safety devices have been activated or bypassed. This will be useful when crane owners and occupiers review lifting operations, and it encourages the crane operators to be more careful when operating mobile cranes. If you have not installed data loggers in your mobile cranes, I encourage you to apply for the fund and do so now, so as to utilise the benefits as early as possible.
- I have shared with you some of the existing and upcoming WSH initiatives for the crane industry. But these plans will be futile without a firm commitment to improve and a collective action from all parties. In line with this year’s National WSH Campaign, “I can prevent all injuries and be healthy at work,” we can start with a mindset that all injuries and ill health at work can be prevented. By working together, we can play an active role in safeguarding the safety, health and well-being of ourselves and those of our workers. May you have a fruitful day ahead. Thank you.