Construction firms' safety timeout brought forward

Contractor group's decision comes amid concerns over spate of worksite fatalities

The Singapore Contractors Association has brought forward its quarterly safety timeout, as it expressed "grave concern" over the recent spate of workplace fatalities at construction sites.

The decision came after the latest death in a worksite-related incident last Saturday. There have been seven fatalities this year, of which five were from the construction sector, Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said in a Facebook post last night.

In last Saturday's incident, a 36-year-old Indian national was killed after he was struck by a sheet pile at a Sengkang construction site. The Manpower Ministry as well as the police are investigating the incident.

Under the non-mandatory timeout, originally scheduled for next month, construction companies stop work and review how they carry out particular activities. The whole process usually lasts a few hours or less.

Mr Zaqy said that the call for the safety timeout was a "timely reminder" to the construction industry to review safety procedures.

He said preliminary investigations into the recent incidents uncovered, among other things, unsafe work practices, poorly planned operations and a lack of control measures.

"These incidents could have all been prevented if proper risk assessments were conducted, and safety and health were properly managed during work activities," added Mr Zaqy.

  • Worksite fatalities this year

  • March 9

    A 36-year-old Indian national was killed after being struck by a sheet pile at a construction site in Sengkang.

    The man was working at a site at 327C Anchorvale Road. The occupier of the worksite is Ken-Pal, while the worker was employed by Harris Construction.

    Feb 22

    An Indian construction worker, 27, died at a worksite of the Changi East project at 31A Tanah Merah Coast Road after a tipper truck hit him. It was the first fatal accident related to the project, which includes Changi Airport Terminal 5.

    The police later arrested a 32-year-old man for causing death by a negligent act.

    Jan 22

    A 27-year-old Indian construction worker fell to his death when the rope he was attached to snapped after part of it became entangled with the side mirror of a passing bus.

    The worker, who was painting the exterior of the Royal Plaza on Scotts, was secured to the rope and hovering several storeys above the ground.

    Jan 14

    A Bangladeshi worker, 28, was killed after a Housing Board lift that was undergoing upgrading works seemingly dropped from the fifth floor to the first.

    The worker was part of a team carrying out lift replacement works at Block 805 Chai Chee Road, and had been transporting debris from the fifth floor to the ground floor.

    Lim Min Zhang

The association, which represents about 3,000 companies, urged firms to also take the opportunity to review all aspects of safety and risk assessment at all their worksites.

Association president Kenneth Loo said: "We are deeply concerned with the rise in construction incidents and fatalities over the past two months. Our thoughts and prayers go to those affected and their families."

 

He added that a "holistic and reasonable approach" was needed to ensure workplace safety.

"We call on all construction firms to conduct a safety timeout as soon as possible to reinforce this shared responsibility, and for everyone to remain vigilant in safeguarding workplace safety at all times," he said.

The timeouts used to be carried out on an ad-hoc basis until two years ago, when the association decided that such reviews should be conducted more regularly.

The latest one will focus on site traffic management and include areas such as securing goods on trucks, navigating a construction site as well as driving safely.

Mr Loo told The Straits Times that this was timely given that two weeks ago, a construction worker from India was killed after a tipper truck hit him at a worksite.

"We hope to send out the signal to firms to monitor how their workers walk on a site, and how they control the movement of their heavy vehicles," Mr Loo added.

"Every site is different, and that is why it is good for firms to review the particular situations and take the necessary steps to mitigate the risks."

A spokesman for the association said that, on average, 60 companies respond to the timeout every quarter, reviewing the work processes at between 300 and 600 sites.

Some firms also carry out their own reviews regularly, although their findings are not reported to the association.

The construction sector has remained the top contributor behind deaths at worksites, with 14 fatal accidents last year, two more than the year before.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2019, with the headline 'Construction firms' safety timeout brought forward'. Print Edition | Subscribe