MOM to target construction site lapses

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and construction industry must review and prevent lapses in the building process for support structures, said Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, in the wake of at least seven construction site accidents in January.

"Accidents normally happen when there are lapses," he told reporters after a visit on Thursday to a worksite behind Palawan Beach on Sentosa, where a supporting structure collapsed and left 10 men injured and one dead on Wednesday.

The incident was the third construction site accident reported this week and the sixth this month. Of these, five were related to formwork structures, which are typically made of metal and support the mould into which concrete is poured.

A seventh worksite accident took place on Wednesday afternoon in Kallang, where the new National Stadium is being built.

While the ministry is still investigating the cases, Mr Tan had questions about how the building of support structures was done.

He wondered about things like whether the structures were designed correctly, whether the installation was done properly, and if the right people were trained.

All work at the Sentosa site, which is for a family entertainment centre by construction firm Debenho, has been halted due to safety lapses, said Mr Tan.

An MOM spokesman said initial findings showed safety lapses such as gaps in safety barriers and poor housekeeping.

The centre was previously slated to be built by the year end but this is now likely to be delayed, said a spokesman for Sentosa Development Corp, which commissioned the project. "Our priority is to work towards the safe execution of the works, and to bring the works to full completion."

On Thursday, Mr Tan sent his condolences to the family of the 36-year-old Chinese national who died in the accident. The worker's family members are in the process of getting visas to come here to collect his body.

Debenho project manager Poh Hua Nong said the man died from a head injury, and that the firm would pay for his family to fly here as well as costs related to funeral rites and compensation.

On Wednesday, Mr Tan said that MOM would review two existing workplace safety programmes. On Thursday, he added: "This is just to enhance the whole system, and make sure we heighten sensitivity to safety."

He advised construction firms not to rush, saying that there are proper procedures and "if you cut corners, things can happen".

While the MOM will "press for heavy deterrence if we find that certain groups are responsible (for the accidents)", Mr Tan said he is not considering increasing punishments right now. "It shouldn't be that 'punishments are heavier, therefore I follow'. It is the fact that lives are lost," he said.

rachelay@sph.com.sg


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