New mandatory framework for building designs to protect workers and their safety

New mandatory framework for building designs to protect workers and their safety
A construction worker is seen at the Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP) in the Henderson Crescent estate. The Manpower Ministry and Building and Construction Authority will lead a new workgroup to work out details of a mandatory framework that will incorporate the safety and protection of construction workers into the building plans.

The Manpower Ministry and Building and Construction Authority will lead a new workgroup to work out details of a mandatory framework that will incorporate the safety and protection of construction workers into the building plans.


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Here is the speech by y Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, at Launch of National Workplace Safety and Health Campaign on May 7

Need for Fundamental Shifts in Our WSH Approach

Let me begin with where we stand today in Workplace Safety and Health (or "WSH") in Singapore, and why we need fundamental shifts in our approach as we go forward in our WSH journey.

We are at an inflection point. We have achieved good results in bringing down our overall workplace fatality rate from 4.0 per 100,000 employees in 2005 to 2.1 in 2013. But the rate of improvement has slowed, and we are at risk of plateau-ing or even slipping back. If we do more of the same, more of what we have been doing already, we will likely see marginal improvement at best.

In particular, our WSH performance in the first three months of 2014 is of grave concern. We had 19 workplace fatalities, five more compared to the same period last year. 12 of the 19 lives were lost in the construction sector. Over the last three years, the fatality rate in the construction sector has in fact increased from 5.5 in 2011 to 5.9 in 2012, and then to 7.0 in 2013.

The situation is unacceptable, and we cannot let it continue. While construction firms face genuine operating challenges, such as worker shortages in some areas and pressure to complete projects on time, the safety and health of workers must be the foremost priority for everyone. With construction demand expected to remain strong, there is an especially pressing need to arrest this rise in worksite fatalities, and achieve clear and lasting improvement in the sector's WSH performance.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has taken immediate measures to step up its regulatory controls as well as its enforcement efforts. These measures include the strengthening of the Business under Surveillance (or "BUS") programme2 and the Stop Work Order (or "SWO") regime, and heavier penalties for companies and individuals found responsible for WSH infringements.3 It is undertaking a further review of its regulatory penalties and the legislative framework, to ensure that both MOM and the Courts are able to send a stronger deterrent message.

However, we cannot rely solely on downstream regulation and enforcement activities to achieve a breakthrough in WSH performance. We have to do more upstream ather than only deal with the risks that materialise downstream.

This is an important qualitative shift in our thinking and approach to WSH. We must make this shift if we are to achieve our target of less than 1.8 fatalities per 100,000 employees by 2018. Let me illustrate this approach in two areas - (i) upstream risk management and (ii) workplace health.

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