Speech by SMS Zaqy at the REDAS Safety Leadership Forum 2022
, Fullerton Hotel
Mr Chia Ngiang Hong, President, Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore (REDAS),
Mr Yam Ah Mee, Chairman, WSH Council (Construction and Landscape) Committee,
Industry leaders and fellow professionals,
Ladies and gentlemen.
1. Good morning. I am very happy to join you here today at the REDAS Safety Leadership Forum.
2. This event is aptly named because the the inculcation of a safety culture must start with top management.
i) REDAS members comprise property developers, which sit at the very top of the construction value chain.
ii) As developers, you are in the best position to take safety leadership because you set WSH standards through your contract specifications when selecting contractors.
iii) You determine the pace of work, and you are in a position to reward good safety behaviour and penalise poor ones.
WSH performance for the construction industry
3. There is a pressing need for safety leadership in the construction industry.
i) Construction workplace deaths have been trending up after Covid work stoppages.
ii) We had seven fatalities in the first half of 2021, six in the second half of 2021, and then 10 fatalities in just the first halft of 2022.
iii) Of the 33 fatalities this year, 12 of the fatalities were from the construction industry, accounting for almost 40% of the deaths.
4. The outlook for major injuries is similarly worrying.
i) Despite an overall drop over the last decade, the construction industry recorded 84 major injuries so far in the first half of 2022.
ii) This represents the worst performance since 2014 if we annualise this figure for the whole of this year.
iii) This is disheartening and unacceptable.
5. I was also concerned by the fatality at Keppel Shipyard that occurred earlier this week. Though it occurred in the marine sector, it is highly relevant to the construction sector as it involves structures that can fail. Investigations are still ongoing to determine the cause and I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family of the worker.
Package of measures to address spate of accidents
6. To prevent accidents, we are tackling the situation from four angles:
i) Firstly, enforcement.
a. The penalties for being unsafe need to have enough deterrent value.
b. Thus, MOM has stepped up enforcement, almost doubling our inspections this quarter compared to the same period last year.
c. We have also doubled the composition fines for each infringment found from $1,000 to $2,000 on average.
ii) Secondly, empowerment.
a. Workers need to feel empowered to raise safety issues they see on the ground.
b. They should raise red flags to their supervisors, but if the supervisors do not listen, they need to know how they can report to MOM.
c. So project signboards at construction sites will show a QR code linking to MOM, together with our safety hotline. This enables workers to whistleblow should their feedback to employers fall on deaf ears.
iii) Thirdly, oversight.
a. This means oversight by companies over their own work processes and workplace safety.
Launch of revised WSH Guidelines for Design for Safety
7. One way developers can exercise oversight is to incorporate safety upstream in the planning and design phase of projects.
i) The WSH Guidelines for Design for Safety (DfS), published in 2016, was meant to do this.
8. However, we understand that industry needed more specific guidance on DfS implementation.
i) So we have revised the Guidelines with more examples, in the form of detailed checklists, of what design concerns could be avoided and encouraged to address risks at source.
ii) You may download the revised Guidelines for the Workplace Safety and Health Council’s website.
Cultivating WSH Onwership
9. The fourth angle to accident prevention is ownership.
i) This refers to self-motivation by companies to want to be safe.
ii) This often depends on the culture and processes set by top management.
10. To help top management set up the right WSH culture and processes, we are finalising the Code of Practice (COP) on Chief Executives’ and Board of Directors’ WSH Duties which I had shared earlier this year at the launch of the National WSH Campaign.
i) The draft COP is out for public consultation.
ii) The COP will spell out WSH responsibilities for management and boards.
iii) In the event of an offence under the WSH Act, the courts may consider the COP when assessing the culpability of company leaders and its Board.
iv) We are putting company leaders and boards on notice, that WSH must be a key priority for companies, especially those in high-risk sectors.
v) When we look at companies with good WSH practices, they often put WSH requirements in their tender specifications and place a heavy evaluation weightage for it, as it also reflects the reputation of the firm or developer.
vi) It starts with how we do procurement, whom we select for contracts and the WSH standards we wish to set, that will set the tone for the industry.
vii) We aim to ensure all sectors can achieve high WSH standards and that Singapore as a whole can be safe for all workers.
11. One of the COP’s proposed measures is to set and demand high WSH standards among vendors and contractors.
i) This would foster stronger WSH ownership as contrators realise that being safer would mean more business opportunities.
12. Some specific ways to set and demand high WSH standards are:
i) To take vendors’ and contrators’ WSH performance into account when choosing them;
ii) To disqualify unsafe companies from being awarded your contracts; and
iii) To reward vendors and contractors with good WSH performance.
Enhanced CheckSAFE to help industry make more informed decisions
13. To support developers in taking safety track record into account when appointing contractors, we have enhanced CheckSAFE, an e-service rolled out by MOM since January 2021.
i) CheckSAFE has been actively used by developers and main contractors to assess track records of companies that they intend to engage. Thanks to feedback from the industry, we have made the following improvements:
a. Previously, users could only view the WSH records of construction companies. Now, we have expanded to allow users to view companies from all sectors.
b. Users can now compare up to 10 companies at once, up from the previous five companies.
c. The WSH records of companies now contain more details, such as any Stop Work Orders and its details over the past three years.
d. Lastly, users can also view the accolades earned by the company, such as a WSH Award or bizSAFE Award.
14. Taking CheckSafe records into account when selecting contractors will create a virtuous cycle where main contractors will equate safety performance with business opportunities and result in them managing your sites and choosing sub-contractors with safety at top of mind.
i) In the end, Developers benefit from stronger safety performance, lower risk of work stoppage due to accidents, and a better reputation.
15. Public sectors developers are moving to a harmonised disqualification framework, which Minister Tan See Leng mentioned in June.
i) The details will be announced soon. I am heartened to know that REDAS will publicise the disqualification measures when the details are announced for their members’ awareness.
ii) I would like REDAS to update MOM on which of their members have adopted the framework one year down the road.
16. I am also glad that REDAS will be encouraging all its members to implement a safety bonus, where developers would incentivise contractors with good WSH performance by paying out bonus quantum at specific project milestones.
i) This would be a strong carrot in aligning contractors’ business interests with good WSH.
17. Here, I would like to commend the REDAS members that already have this good practice.
i) For example, Keppel Land and City Developments Limited (CDL), who have both introduced incentive schemes for good WSH performance for all their projects.
ii) I look forward to more REDAS members demonstrating such strong safety leadership.
18. In conclusion, as developers, you play a critical role in raising safety standards.
i) You also have tremendous influence as service buyers to raise safety standards and reward contractors down the value for good safety performance.
ii) Hence, I urge you all do do your part to realise our WSH2028 vision of Singapore being one of the safest workplaces in the world.