Hold sub-contractors to account for safety lapses

The Ministry of Manpower's Business Under Surveillance programme is a commendable effort. Through it, the ministry helps poor-performing companies improve their workplace safety and health records by requiring them to develop and implement a robust safety and health management system.

However, the ministry should take into consideration the trends of violations and recurrence ("Wake-up call on work safety"; Dec 21).

Most of the time, sub-contractors, who carry out a large proportion of work at construction sites, do not comply with safety regulations.

Workplace safety and health aspects are weak spots in construction contracts, and some sub-contractors take advantage of this.

When it comes to site implementation of safety regulations, enforcement is slack and this poses a hazard to all site personnel.

Hence, sub-contractors should be subjected to demerit points, punitive actions and legal liabilities.

Clear and precise requirements should be specified to enhance the effectiveness of safety planning.

Sub-contractors should be made to register for their own factory licence, which would deem them as occupiers themselves, and answerable for their actions.

Insurance agencies should assess the level of legal compliance before renewing policies.

A poor safety record and any endangering of workers and the environment should affect the renewal of the insurance policy.

Workplace safety and health officers have to be deployed to advise on and implement effective measures on safety management.

Supervisors have to ensure due diligence in implementing safety measures as insufficient supervision is one key weakness that causes incidents.

Another is the lack of support by top management in implementing safety measures.

Ultimately, employers, occupiers and the principals involved have a responsibility to do their part.

The penalties are in place, with the enactment of the Workplace and Safety Health Act. All that remains is for the industry culture to be aligned with it.

Han Wenqi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2016, with the headline 'Hold sub-contractors to account for safety lapses'. Print Edition | Subscribe