Coronavirus pandemic

Firms apply to house workers on site to resume business faster

Quick build dormitories at the construction site at Tampines Industrial Ave 2 on July 15, 2020.
Quick build dormitories at the construction site at Tampines Industrial Ave 2 on July 15, 2020.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

While more dorms will be built in the coming months, contrac-tors anxious to resume business have taken the initiative in the meantime to apply to build temporary quarters for their workers on work sites.

Some 25,000 bed spaces for such construction temporary quarters (CTQs) have been approved, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Ministry of National Development (MND) said in response to queries from The Straits Times.

The ministries also said another 25,000 beds in Quick Build Dormitories (QBDs) are in the pipeline to reduce the density of workers in dorms. Such QBDs are semi-permanent and last for two to three years.

But new standards and specifications for QBDs are still being discussed with stakeholders, such as dorm operators and health experts, said MOM and MND, adding that more consultations will be held next month.

Last month, it was reported that QBDs will have no more than 10 beds per room, with only single-deck beds and 1m spacing between them. Not more than five people will share a toilet, bathroom and sink, compared with 15 people currently. Each resident will have 6 sq m of living space, compared with 4.5 sq m now.

MOM and MND said early feedback from some dormitory operators suggests that they are generally supportive of capping the number of workers per room and increasing the living space per resident to help reduce the extent of transmission during a disease outbreak.

The ministries also said slight variations on some of these proposed changes to configurations could first be tested in select QBDs.

As for CTQs, MOM's website specifies that they are allowed to house a maximum of 300 people each, though appeals can be made for higher occupancy.

There are two types of CTQs. The first are quarters located within an uncompleted permanent building still under construction. These are allowed to house only foreign workers in the construction sector.

 
 

The second are standalone, temporary quarters within the construction project site that will eventually be removed. They are to house only foreign construction workers engaged at the particular site.

Requirements from various government agencies need to be met before such quarters are allowed to be built as housing for workers.

  • Housing types to thin out dorms

  • Different kinds of housing are in the pipeline to reduce living density in dormitories for workers:

    QUICK BUILD DORMITORIES (QBDs)

    QBDs are semi-permanent structures that will last for about two to three years, with a total capacity of about 25,000. Sites identified for these dorms include Kranji Way, Choa Chu Kang Way and Tampines Industrial Avenue 2.

    The dorms will have no more than 10 beds per room, with only single-deck beds and 1m spacing between them. Not more than five people will share a toilet, bathroom and sink, and each resident will have 6 sq m of living space.

    CONSTRUCTION TEMPORARY QUARTERS (CTQs)

    CTQs are temporary structures to house workers at a construction site itself, and can each hold up to 300 workers. They can be standalone structures and removed later, or quarters that use parts of a building under construction.

    Some 25,000 bed spaces in CTQs have been approved so far.

    OTHER ARRANGEMENTS

    Other shorter-term arrangements include the temporary fitting-out of state properties that are currently not in use, such as former schools and vacant factories. These will provide space for about 25,000 beds in total.

After first applying to the Building and Construction Authority, the firms must get MOM's go-ahead before they can start building the quarters. They also need to get approval from the National Environment Agency for sanitation facilities, and national water agency PUB for water supply and sewerage.

As a temporary exemption to speed up applications for the Covid-19 period, a Singapore-registered qualified person (QP) does not need to get building plans approved by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).

As a temporary exemption to speed up applications for the Covid-19 period, a Singapore-registered qualified person does not need to get building plans approved by the Singapore Civil Defence Force.

In general, design and supervision QPs are responsible for coming up with building plans and checking that construction works are carried out as specified.

But the plans for temporary quarters must be certified by the relevant authorities and available on site at all times for inspection by MOM and SCDF officers.

Tee Zhuo

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2020, with the headline 'Firms apply to house workers on site to resume business faster'. Print Edition | Subscribe