Construction sector must “work harder” to address safety concerns – minister

This sector accounted for half of workplace deaths in 2016

Construction sector must “work harder” to address safety concerns – minister
Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan is calling on the construction sector to “work harder” to address key workplace safety and health (WSH) concerns, as the industry aims to reduce its fatality rate this year. The sector has shown some signs of improvement – it logged one death in the first quarter this year, compared to the average of six fatalities per quarter in 2016, according to government data. 

In 2015, leaders from the sector pledged to reduce the fatality rate by at least 25% each year in order to achieve a target of less than 1.8 deaths per 100,000 workers by 2018. “Based on a linear projection, this roughly translates to a fatality rate of 2.3 this year for us to be on track,” said Tan on Monday.

The minister gave three “areas of concern” that the sector should address: falls prevention, onsite vehicular safety, and safe lifting operations.

Falls prevention is a priority area for the Programme-based Engagement (ProBE) Plus 2017. Tan said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will “more than triple” the Mobile Work at Heights programme from 80 visits in 2016 to 300 this year.

He urged the industry to sign up for the programme when the next round of visits opens in July. Under the programme, WSH professionals will visit construction worksites to provide onsite practical assistance and guidance on tackling work at heights hazards.

Tan said vehicular safety is also a key concern, as 12 workers were hit and killed last year by moving vehicles within workplaces – six were from the construction sector. “Accidents like these can be prevented, if there were clearly demarcated routes to separate workers from vehicles and drivers checked their blind spots before reversing,” he added.

In August, MOM will launch “Managing Onsite Vehicular Safety” (MOVeS) – an onsite compliance assistance programme. WSH consultants will visit and assess work premises to raise awareness and guide employers on traffic safety management within their workplaces.

On concern for lift operations, Tan said there were seven “dangerous occurrences” involving cranes during the first five months of 2017 – half of which occurred in the construction sector.  He said the National Crane Safety Taskforce under the WSH Council will be producing a video on the preventive steps to take during lifting operations. “We urge companies to tap on various crane safety guides available on the WSH Council website, and make use of the new video when it is ready.”

Last year, the workplace fatality rate in Singapore remained at 1.9 per 100,000 workers. The construction industry remained the most dangerous sector in Singapore, accounting for half of all of the nation’s workplace fatalities.

Related stories:
MOM takes action against construction firm over safety failures
Employer fined $90,000 over safety lapses leading to worker’s death

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