FATAL accidents in the construction sector here spiked by more than 50 per cent, with 17 fatalities in the first half of this year, up from 11 over the same period last year.
Major injuries in the sector also hit 71 in the first five months of this year, compared with 62 in the same period last year.
"These statistics are more than just numbers," said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower and Education Hawazi Daipi.
"Behind each of these fatalities is someone's spouse, parent, child, friend or colleague," he added at a work safety conference yesterday at the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability. "We simply cannot allow the situation to deteriorate further," he said.
The extent of the problem was evident in a recent series of inspections by the Manpower Ministry.
Dubbed Operation Peacock, it involved 144 checks at construction sites of landed properties across Singapore in April.
Officers uncovered 280 workplace safety and health violations, which included work at heights, scaffolding and electrical lapses such as missing guard rails.
They also issued 237 warnings, 178 fines, and four full stop-work orders, which are meted out when there are severe safety and health lapses that can cause immediate danger.
The fatality rate in the construction sector has risen in the past three years - from 5.5 per 100,000 workers in 2011, to seven per 100,000 workers last year.
In the first three months of this year, the sector had 12 fatalities - an average of about one a week.
Urgent and serious actions are needed to improve the situation, stressed Mr Hawazi.
He urged industry stakeholders to adopt good safety practices and cautioned that enforcement will be stepped up.
This includes stiffer penalties and tighter conditions for the lifting of stop-work orders, which were announced in May by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, along with an upcoming Design for Safety framework.
Under this, it will be compulsory for developers to ensure that designs are safe to implement by incorporating risk-control solutions into them.
Singapore Contractors Association president Ho Nyok Yong stressed the importance of safety education and communication between contractors and developers in preventing accidents.
"Construction safety is not just a contractor issue. It (also involves) the consultant, architect, developer, contractor and sub-contractor - the full chain of people from top to bottom," he said.
"This is why it's important to cooperate."
This article was first published on July 4, 2014.
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