These vans drive home work-safety message

Vans like this operated by the Workplace Safety and Health Council have been visiting worksites to teach workers how to use safety gear since 2010. The council plans to step up such visits this year.

SINGAPORE - An official van pulling into a construction site can often signal to bosses and workers that a raid is under way.

But there is no cause for anxiety if it's one of a fleet of colourful vans operated by the Workplace Safety and Health Council.

Since their launch in October 2010, the vans have been visiting around 1,300 worksites a year to educate staff about health and safety issues.

The council plans to step up the visits to 1,600 sites this year.

"Workplaces will benefit from on-site practical assistance," a spokesman said.

The council stressed that the visits are not enforcement checks, but "an engagement effort that educates the industry on workplace safety and health issues".

The visits complement the Manpower Ministry's official inspections and allow firms to "take ownership" of work safety, added the spokesman.

The visits are outsourced to certified safety trainers, though the council was unable to say how many vans it is using in total.

The campaign is being stepped up in the wake of a sharp spike in construction-site deaths.

There were 22 between July and December last year - double the number in the first half of the year. Eight workers died at construction sites last month.

The MOM is also mulling over tougher measures against those flouting safety rules. Those ordered to stop work because of safety breaches will also find it harder to resume their operations.

It is also reviewing a demerit points system and the scope of a ministry watch list for firms with poor safety records.

Details of the review will be announced by mid-year.

Industry players welcome the visits by the safety education van.

Mr Andy Goh, chief financial officer of Sysma Holdings, said they are effective because each session takes one to two hours and causes minimum disruption to the worksite operations.

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