Launching SCAL’s annual Construction Safety, Health and Security Campaign, Mr Sam Tan, Minister of State for Manpower, Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) addressed the gathering of industry leaders and safety experts, which saw attendance of Mr Kenneth Loo, President of the Singapore Contractors Association Limited (or SCAL), and Mr Lee Kay Chai, Chairman of SCAL’s Workplace Safety and Health Committee and Campaign Organising Committee.
Expressing concern on the deteriorating WSH performance in the construction sector in Singapore and reduction in the number of fatalities and accidents over the period of 2015-2017, Mr Sam Tan praised the collective efforts of SCAL in curbing the numbers to witness a decline of 59 percent in 2H 2016 and ending the year on a positive note with a sector fatality rate of 4.9 per 100,000 employed persons, the lowest since 2007.
This momentum of improvement continued through the first quarter of 2017. The construction sector saw 1 fatality, compared to the average of 6 fatalities per quarter of 2016. As a result, the 12-month rolling fatality rate in the construction sector has dropped further to 3.42 as of end March.
Pledging to reduce the sector’s fatality rate by at least 25% each year, in order to achieve a target of less than 1.8 by 2018, the sector still seems to face WSH issues regards workers safety with regards to fall from heights and struck by moving vehicles as still the leading causes of most injuries.
To prevent fall hazards, a priority area for the Programme-based Engagement (ProBE) Plus 2017 was announced earlier to enhance worker safety in common activities such as working from ladders and on structures.
Pulling up its sleeves, MOM will more than triple the ‘Mobile Work at Heights’ programme from 80 visits in 2016 to 300 in 2017. Under this programme, WSH professionals will visit construction worksites to provide onsite practical assistance and guidance on tackling work at heights hazards.
For example, by identifying areas for guardrails installation to prevent falling, developing awareness programmes to remind workers to maintain 3-point contact when using ladders, or making site changes to provide proper access and egress.
The aim of this programme will be to build capabilities by equipping supervisors and workers with the knowledge and skills in implementing measures to ensure safe work at heights. Mr. Tan urged the industry to sign up for the programme when the next rounds of visits open in July.
MOM will also conduct an inspection operation targeting work at heights activities in June 2017. The WSH Council has also produced various educational materials such as videos and an e-learning module to raise awareness and educate industry on falls prevention.
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The second area of concern is onsite vehicular safety. “In 2016 alone, 12 workers were hit and killed by moving vehicles within workplaces – of which 6 were from the construction sector. Accidents like these can be prevented, if there were clearly demarcated routes to separate workers from vehicles and drivers checked their blind spots before reversing. Companies need to identify the potential risks when using vehicles within the work premises,” Mr. Tan noted in his speech.
To address this second area of growing concern posing threat to worker safety, MOM will be launching an onsite compliance assistance programme called “Managing Onsite Vehicular Safety” or “MOVeS” in short in August.
Under the programme, WSH consultants will visit and assess the work premises to raise awareness and guide employers on traffic safety management within their workplaces. This will help companies to better manage the risks associated with the movement and operation of vehicles at work. More details on the programme will be shared in due course.
The third area highlighted is safe lifting operations. In the first 5 months of 2017, the region saw 7 dangerous occurrences involving the use of cranes. Half of these cases occurred in the construction sector. To raise awareness of hazards in lifting operations and guide industry on good practices.
The National Crane Safety Taskforce under the WSH Council will be producing a video on the preventive steps to take during lifting operations. These include the clear delineation of roles in the lifting team and conducting pre-lifting checks.
Minister of State for Manpower, Mr. Sam Tan urges companies to tap on various crane safety guides available on the WSH Council website, and make use of the new video when it is ready. These industry initiatives will be in vain without support and ownership of the industry at the ground level.
“While the construction sector’s fatality rate target of less than 1.8 per 100,000 workers by next year may seem like a tall order, it is not impossible to achieve if we set our hearts and minds to it. In line with this year’s National WSH Campaign message, “Prevent all injuries. Go home safe and healthy”, injuries affect not just us but our loved ones too. It is up to each of us to take the initiative in being more vigilant of our surroundings, assess the work situation and take steps to address the work hazard,” Mr. Tan concluded.
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