Alternative route for basic skilled construction workers to become higher skilled

June 23, 20169:37 am615 views
Alternative route for basic skilled construction workers to become higher skilled
700 workers seen attending the first day of the SCAL Safety Promotion Campaign - Work at High Awareness training which was conducted at the Public Housing construction project at Bukit Batok West Ave 6, on 22 June 2016. Photo: Koh Mui Fong/TODAY

SINGAPORE — In a bid to grow a pool of workers experienced in workplace safety and health matters, the Ministry of Manpower will allow these work permit holders to qualify for re-categorisation as higher skilled workers from October, which will lower their levies for their employers.

The change to this multi-skilling scheme comes as workplace accidents in the construction sector remain stubbornly high, with the 17 deaths in the sector since the start of the year nearly double the number in the same period last year.

Making the announcement at the Construction Safety, Health and Security seminar on Wednesday (June 22), Minister of State (Manpower) Sam Tan said “concerted and urgent” action must be taken to improve the woeful safety record in the construction sector.

“All of us are concerned with the loss of lives at worksites. I cannot emphasise enough that every death is one too many… This situation cannot continue,” he said. “Employers will also have greater flexibility in deploying these multi-skilled workers on-site, reducing downtime and improving productivity. The sector’s WSH standards and quality of the construction workforce in Singapore will naturally improve.”

The change to the multi-skilling scheme under the Building and Construction Authority allows Basic Skilled R2 workers with at least six years of experience in Singapore and a Skills Evaluation Certificate (Knowledge) in the construction sector to be categorised as Higher Skilled R1 workers. This is provided has clocked a minimum of 120 hours of training in safety-related courses or obtained a Singapore Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) Advanced Certificate in Workplace Safety and Health (WSH).

Currently, only workers with a minimum of four years experience and two Skills Evaluation Certificate (Knowledge) in different trades qualify for the scheme.

Mr Tan said that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has stepped up on inspections and enforcement. During an enforcement operation in May, more than 800 workplaces in the construction and marine sectors were inspected. Over 22 Stop Work Orders and 300 fines were issued to 117 companies, after more than 1,000 WSH contraventions were found.

“Our inspectors found openings that were unguarded, scaffold work platforms without toe boards or guardrails and no safe means of access between different working levels,” said Mr Tan. “These problem areas could be easily rectified if companies pay sufficient attention. Guardrails and barricades can be installed. Safe and proper stairway with walkway access can be provided. But because they did not do so, the companies had exposed their workers to unnecessary risks.”

Last month, the MOM announced stiffer penalties for errant employers, including increasing the minimum Stop Work Order period from two to three weeks. So far, 19 companies have been issued with lengthened Stop Work Orders as a result of fatalities in their workplaces.

Mr Tan said: “Companies must know that WSH violations will result in serious consequences, and should take steps to ensure that their workplaces are safe and healthy.”

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