Stiffer penalties for contractors who flout worksite safety rules

Stiffer penalties for contractors who flout worksite safety rules

SINGAPORE - Contractors who flout safety rules will be barred from hiring any new foreign workers under a new stiffer demerit point system.

This ban will be imposed on the company when it accumulates a specified number of points.

Currently, the punishment is confined to specific worksites.

Other changes include errant companies having to carry the demerit points for 18 months, instead of 12 months now.

The penalties will also kick in earlier, and more demerit points will be given to serious offences.

Announcing this in Parliament yesterday, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Hawazi Daipi said: "We hope the enhanced (system) will help drive companies to put in greater coherent effort to address systemic safety lapses."

These four changes to the scheme came after workplace deaths for the construction sector remained stubbornly high in recent years, despite efforts to bring it down.

The construction industry accounted for 27 of 60 workplace fatalities last year, and 33 of 73 fatalities the year before.

This was despite measures, such as the requirement from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) for developers to identify risks and hazards at worksites before a tender is awarded.

The Workplace Safety and Health Council also made 1,600 visits to worksites to conduct safety compliance audits last year, double the 800 visits in 2013.

Overall, though, workplace deaths across all industries fell to a record low of 60 last year, said Mr Hawazi.

As a result, the MOM met its target of 1.8 workplace fatalities per 100,000 workers four years ahead of schedule.

But the number of non-fatal injury cases at workplaces has gone up over the last three years, from 10,060 in 2011 to about 13,000 last year.

Said Mr Hawazi: "We need to continue to press on and do more in order to achieve sustainable improvements in our workplace safety and health performance."

Yesterday, he also announced that the Government will enhance the regulatory framework for Major Hazard Installations (MHI), such as oil refineries.

This is following recommendations by an inter-agency task force set up to review the framework. Asked by Nominated MP K. Karthikeyan about the Government's efforts in this area, Mr Hawazi said that several recommendations would be adopted, including the setting up of a National MHI Regulatory Office to work with MHIs on safety, health and environment matters.

Mr Hawazi was also asked by Mr Patrick Tay (Nee Soon GRC) about compensation limits for workers who die from workplace incidents or are permanently incapacitated.

He said the MOM will be reviewing the limits to bring them in line with the rise in nominal median wages.

The limits were last revised in 2012.

To address the increase in industrial accident medical bills, MOM will also be raising the cap for medical expenses claims to ensure that the Work Injury Compensation Act continues to fully cover more than 95 per cent of claims where hospitalisation is required, said Mr Hawazi. Currently, coverage is capped at $30,000 per accident or for a period of one year from the accident, whichever is reached first.

The Act imposes a duty on employers to compensate their employees who are injured as a result of work.

As such, Mr Hawazi said, it does not cover freelancers who are considered their own employers.

"We encourage self-employed persons to take responsibility for their own well-being and purchase adequate insurance to ensure some financial certainty in the event that they are injured while at work," he added.

MINISTRY OF MANPOWER FY2015 Budget: $1.5 billion (Up by 16 per cent)

This article was first published on March 10, 2015.
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