Design for Safety rules for bigger building projects

Workers at a construction site at Toa Payoh Lorong 8.
Workers at a construction site at Toa Payoh Lorong 8. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

New regulations, to take effect from August next year, aim to reduce worksite fatalities

All parties involved in construction projects worth $10 million or more will have to comply with new safety rules from August next year, in a move to reduce the number of worksite deaths.

Under the Design for Safety regulations, they will have to incorporate safety features - such as rotating wall panels in green walls so that workers can prune the plants indoors - into design plans to protect workers who build and maintain the projects .

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say says the rules will be gazetted under the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act by next month.

Speaking to about 300 company representatives at a construction industry conference yesterday, he said: "Leaders need to set the tone and walk the talk to influence the behaviour in the industry."

Of the 25 deaths in the construction industry in 2012, 11 lives - nearly half - could have been saved if Design for Safety rules had been implemented, he added.

LEAD BY EXAMPLE

Leaders need to set the tone and walk the talk to influence the behaviour in the industry.

MANPOWER MINISTER LIM SWEE SAY

The sector's workplace fatality rate has fallen from 8.1 to 5.5 per 100,000 workers from 2010 to last year, and the regulations are among a slew of new initiatives by the Government and industry groups to bring the rate down further to 1.8 per 100,000 workers by 2018, a target set in 2010.

For example, public agencies involved in building and infrastructure projects will require main contractors and subcontractors to have at least a bizSAFE Level 3 or equivalent recognition, and will consider companies' safety records when awarding tenders.

The Manpower Ministry (MOM) will also work with the sector to train 1,000 professionals in Design for Safety by 2018, and the new regulations will be taught in institutes of higher learning.

Developers and contractors will make site visits to monitor WSH performance.

At the conference, eight industry associations, the Public Sector WSH Commitment Group and the Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees' Union pledged to implement these plans.

"The construction sector has a multi-tier contracting system which makes it more challenging than (other sectors)," said WSH Council deputy chairman Heng Chiang Gnee in a speech.

One example of designing for safety is the creation of a trolley

system to pull lights down from a high atrium ceiling so they can be changed without workers having to work at heights, said Singapore Institute of Architects second vice-president Chan Kok Way .

While there may be additional costs from training or tweaking the existing workflow, association bosses agreed that these were an early investment in safety.

Mr Nelson Tee, president of the Specialists Trade Alliance of Singapore, noted that incidents on site would result in a stop work order.

Institution of Engineers Singapore vice-president Edwin Khew added: "In any case, what is the va-lue of life? You can't put a cost to it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2015, with the headline 'Design for Safety rules for bigger building projects'. Print Edition | Subscribe