SINGAPORE - He had to climb 15 storeys up a tower crane on his first day of work.
But halfway through, 28-year-old crane operator Muhammad Imran Ahmad felt a cramp in his hands.
Holding tightly to the rungs leading up to the crane cabin, he took a short break before resuming climbing.
The perceived dangers of working as a crane operator is one reason for the shortage of local workers faced by construction sites.
Despite an attractive starting pay of about $3,000, construction companies are finding it difficult to recruit Singaporeans.
Mr Leo Ong, 49, managing director of Leo Ong Construction, was so affected by this situation that he applied for a crane operator licence on his own two years ago.
"When we were really short of workers, I had no choice but to operate the crane myself," said Mr Ong, who hires more than 30 crane operators and has been in the business for six years.
This problem was highlighted by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan on his blog on Thursday.
Many crane operators are needed on site as a result of prefabrication and standardisation, which is part of the construction industry's plans to increase productivity.
Currently, half of the 3,600 crane operators in Singapore are locals. But a few hundred more are needed as the supply of Build-to-Order flats is ramped up, noted Mr Khaw.
Crane companies which The New Paper contacted have a common gripe - a high demand for operators but a short supply of them. This is due to the increasing number of public and private housing projects, coupled with tightening manpower policies in the construction industry.
Even the high pay does not attract Singaporeans.