Singapore must do better in workplace safety - far too many accidents: PM

PM Lee taking a virtual tour of Changi Airport's upcoming Project Jewel at the BCA's Centre for Lean and Virtual Construction yesterday with BCA chief executive John Keung (second from right) and National Development Minister Lawrence Wong (far left)
PM Lee taking a virtual tour of Changi Airport's upcoming Project Jewel at the BCA's Centre for Lean and Virtual Construction yesterday with BCA chief executive John Keung (second from right) and National Development Minister Lawrence Wong (far left), with Built Environment Research and Innovation Institute assistant managing director Tan Kee Wee briefing the group.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Singapore needs to do better in ensuring safe workplaces, and in improving the productivity and quality of talent in the construction industry, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

Speaking at the launch of a new research centre at the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) Academy, he said there are still "far too many" workplace accidents and deaths, and that the construction sector is a major contributor.

While major but non-fatal workplace injuries in the construction sector fell from 202 in 2014 to 157 last year, the number of fatalities remained at 27.

Overall, there were 42 workplace deaths in the first half of this year, 13 more than the number in the same period last year.

"Every life lost is too many. And when we push for higher productivity, it cannot be at the expense of safety," said Mr Lee.

Construction methods are also still labour-intensive and time-consuming. There are now 350,000 foreign construction workers, and continuing to rely heavily on low-skilled manpower is not sustainable, he added.

He commended the BCA for driving the adoption of more productive construction methods, including the Design for Manufacturing and Assembly approach, by which structures are made off-site and then assembled on-site.

He said it is also vital to develop talent, such as by introducing new training programmes on the latest technologies.

Buildings are more than mere bricks and mortar, said Mr Lee, and reflect the ethos of society, one that is inclusive and forward- looking, and in pursuit of an environmentally sustainable and safe environment.

"Then we can have good buildings - well built, efficiently built, and safely built, meeting human needs, showing off a modern city - (as) an element of the endearing home that all of us share," he said.

Samantha Boh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore must do better in workplace safety - far too many accidents: PM'. Print Edition | Subscribe