The Manpower Ministry (MOM) said on Monday that it will step up safety enforcement measures on several fronts, in the wake of a spike in construction site deaths.
It will review its demerit point system and contractors that fail to improve their safety record can be barred from hiring foreign workers. Details of the review will be announced by the middle of this year, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Hawazi Daipi in Parliament.
Besides the demerit point system, the MOM will also ask the courts to hand out deterrent sentences, including jail time, for those who blatantly flout workplace safety laws, Mr Hawazi warned.
He said: "We will... ask for custodial sentences on individuals who have blatantly disregarded the law and press for maximum sentencing as allowed under the WSH Act for egregious cases."
Those who have been ordered to stop work because of safety breaches will also find it harder to resume their operations, unless the safety lapses are corrected.
The scope of a ministry watch list for firms with poor safety records will also be expanded to keep these firms under closer scrutiny.
Mr Hawazi announced these latest moves when responding to questions from Members of Parliament Foo Mee Har and Associate Professor Eugene Tan, who wanted to know the steps the MOM was taking in response to the spate of workplace accidents.
There were 22 construction deaths between July and December last year, which was double the fatalities in the first half of the year. The trend continued this year and eight workers died in construction sites last month.
Mr Hawazi also disclosed that the MOM found 114 safety breaches at 89 construction sites in the first two weeks this year. Seven construction sites were ordered to stop work, 45 fines were handed out and 69 firms were given official notices that they did not comply with workplace safety rules.
The moves taken by the ministry will not stop workplace deaths unless the industry comes onboard, said Mr Hawazi, adding: "Workplace safety and health is everyone's responsibility."