Six stop-work orders, 272 non-compliance notices and 147 fines issued as three-week safety blitz ends

SINGAPORE - Work has been suspended at six construction sites, following a three-week safety blitz, codenamed Operation Sunbird, by the Manpower Ministry.

Of the 214 worksites inspected, 191 had violated the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act. A total of 272 non-compliance notices and 147 fines, amounting $156,000, were slapped on the errant companies, said the ministry on Tuesday.

Common infractions include unbarricaded areas along sides of buildings, missing toe-boards (which workers can fall through), and failure to provide safe access to scaffolding, inspectors found.

The operation, which ended in early February, was started this year (2015) after a spate of fatal accidents leading up to Chinese New Year, where companies have been found to rush work to meet deadlines.

 

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According to statistics by the Work Safety and Health Council, most fatal injuries occur in the construction sector, with falls the leading cause of deaths. In 2013, 33 construction workers died. Seventeen of those fell to their deaths. Statistics for last year (2014) will be released in March.

At a site visit along Jalan Ampas, which The Straits Times visited on Tuesday, inspectors found that lifting operations were conducted in a dangerous manner. Instead of threading ropes through the palette used to support the load, they were tied to the palettes' sides and resulted in splintering along the sides of the palette. There were also insufficient or missing guardrails, among other safety violations.

The Straits Times understands that the site, occupied by Singbuild, has been told to stop work.

Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said: "The outcome of Operation Sunbird shows that some contractors are still not placing emphasis on the safety and health of their workers."

The Ministry has also observed that some companies "chose to take the easy way out by cutting corners in safety to meet project deadlines" - an attitude that the Minister has chided as "irresponsible and unacceptable".

He added: "Tight schedules should not be an excuse to put workers at risk. Deadlines must be met but never at the expense of.. lives and well-being."