Singapore Budget 2015: Workplace safety measures for construction to be enhanced: SPS Hawazi

SINGAPORE - The penalty system for the construction sector will be enhanced later this year to increase its effectiveness against errant companies who blatantly flout safety rules, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Hawazi Daipi said on Monday.

The demerit point system (DPS) will be simplified to a single-stage system that will prohibit an errant company from employing foreign workers if it accumulates too many demerit points.

Demerit points will also last for 18 months under the new system, up from one year now, Mr Hawazi said in Parliament during the debate on his ministry's spending plans.

In addition, they will be accumulated on a company-wide basis instead of on a per-contract basis, which means that a company with too many demerit points will have its access to foreign workers cut off for the whole firm.

The number of demerit points will also be "calibrated" to deter employers from putting their workers at unnecessary risks at work, said Mr Hawazi.

These changes were made following a review of the penalty system and were finalised after consultations with the construction industry, he added. The enhanced DPS will take effect from July 1.

While the number of workplace fatalities fell to 60 last year compared to 73 cases in 2013 - allowing the Ministry of Manpower to meet its workplace fatality rate target of 1.8 per 100,000 workers four years ahead of its 2018 schedule - lack of workplace safety in the construction sector remains a concern.

Of the 60 workplace fatalities that occurred in 2014, 45 per cent, or 27 deaths, took place in the construction industry, said Mr Hawazi.

"We hope the enhanced DPS will help drive companies to put in greater coherent effort to address systemic safety lapses across all their worksites," he said.