The construction sector has earned itself an unwanted title as the most dangerous industry in Singapore.
While traditionally high-risk along with the bad boys of marine and manufacturing, construction has degenerated further.
It accounted for 33 of the 59 workplace fatalities last year. As a result, the sector's fatality rate spiked to seven for every 100,000 workers, up from 5.9 the year before.
And it is not looking good this year either. In the first three months, 12 out of the 19 workplace fatalities took place at construction sites.
The figures were revealed yesterday by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Hawazi Daipi. "We need to stem the increasing number of fatal accidents that have beset us. One life loss is too many," he said at a safety forum which drew some 500 participants.
Workplace Safety and Health Council chairman Lee Tzu Yang said the accidents and deaths have "saddened us all and clearly show that we need to improve our workplace safety and health performance".
The council will tackle the construction sector's poor track record with new safety programmes targeting three areas - work at heights, crane and formwork. These three areas have contributed to the bulk of the accidents and deaths since last year.
For instance, 14 of the 17 fatal falls last year happened while working at heights.
Four deaths were caused when cranes were used while four workers were killed in formwork-related accidents. This year, three fatal formwork-related accidents have occurred already.
The council hopes to bring down accident rates with two new videos educating bosses and workers about new work at heights regulations which kick in next month.
The rules include having in place a fall prevention plan and a permit-to-work system which ensure that safety measures are in place before work can start.
Mr Hawazi said the Manpower Ministry (MOM) has decided that higher-risk workplaces such as construction sites, shipyards and petrochemical plants will need to adopt the permit-to-work system.
This is because industry players said the new requirements may be overly onerous on lower-risk small and medium firms.
New guidelines and safety courses will also be rolled out to raise crane and formwork safety standards. MOM will introduce new regulations next year aimed at ensuring safety while erecting, dismantling and using formwork.
Education will be coupled with stricter enforcement by MOM.
Said the ministry's commissioner for workplace safety and health Ho Siong Hin: "We will not hesitate to impose stop work orders and fines for any contraventions due to unsafe work practices."
This article was published on April 10 in The Straits Times.
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