Main contractors should be held liable for safety lapses

A development project is usually awarded to a main contractor, who will in turn select sub-contractors ("Hold sub-contractors to account for safety lapses" by Mr Han Wenqi; Dec 22).

The main contractor should be held responsible for any safety lapses because the contract is between the main contractor and the project owner, not the sub-contractor.

The project owner, its consultants and architects have to clearly state the work and safety criteria in their tender documents.

The main contractor should be required to submit the names of the sub-contractors so that they can be assessed according to their safety management systems, safety records, organisation and training, before being approved.

Problems arise when the main contractor enters a low bid for the job and squeezes its sub-contractors to meet the project budget. Sub-contractors want to be safe at work, but safety is compromised by time and money pressures.

Hence, it is is essential that the project owner makes sure the tender price is not ridiculously low.

The Manpower Ministry should provide free training for sub-contractors in the skills of filling out paperwork, such as safe work method statements.

Main contractors should facilitate inter-trade site meetings with action plans and follow-ups to clarify what is needed to work safely.

It is also essential to pressure toolmakers to design safer tools that are more ergonomic and lightweight, and less noisy, as well as to ensure they are not made with toxic chemicals.

Occupational and health safety courses are core elements and should not just be add-on training.

Francis Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2016, with the headline 'Main contractors should be held liable for safety lapses'. Print Edition | Subscribe