Firm barred from hiring new foreign employees after worker falls through roof

The MOM's new Heightened Safety measures require chief executives of companies to personally account for lapses to the ministry. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - A waterproofing company has been taken to task for unsafe practices and is the first to be barred from hiring fresh foreign employees under new heightened safety measures.

Contractor Le Fong Building Services has been barred for three months after a worker fell more than 8m through a roof after stepping on a skylight panel that broke.

The workplace accident, which happened on Sept 1, left the worker with multiple injuries and he remains hospitalised.

The new safety measures announced by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) had kicked in on the day of the incident.

The new measures require chief executives to personally account for lapses to MOM and take responsibility for rectifications. 

In this case, Mr William Lim, Le Fong’s managing director, was hauled up by MOM after its inspection found that the company’s unsafe work practices had directly contributed to the accident and posed an imminent danger to other workers. 

The company was ordered to stop all work-at-height activities across all its work sites. 

Mr Lim admitted that the company had failed to implement a proper system to address safety hazards from working at height. 

MOM said Mr Lim will need to ensure that rectifications are carried out, and that a robust workplace safety and health system is put in place before the stop-work order is lifted. 

“Company leaders are in the best position to set a positive culture and shape safety practices on the ground,” said MOM in a statement. 

“All company leaders must pay utmost attention to workplace safety and health.” 

The ministry did not give more details on the injured worker. 

The Straits Times has contacted Le Fong Building Services for comment.

The heightened safety measures were implemented following a spate of workplace fatalities this year. 

A total of 37 people have died in workplace accidents so far this year – the same number recorded for the whole of last year.

The most recent workplace death was a 45-year-old Grab delivery rider.

The motorcyclist was on his way to collect an order on Sept 1 when he collided with a lorry along Buangkok Green, towards Sengkang East Road.

He died later in hospital.

The 54-year-old lorry driver was arrested for drink driving and is assisting with police investigations.

MOM had said that the heightened safety measures announced last week will increase the accountability of companies and their senior management. 

The new measures are expected to last for six months.

Companies in higher-risk sectors are required to conduct a mandatory safety time-out between Sept 1 and 15 to review safety procedures. 

Small and medium-sized enterprises are given access to workplace safety and health consultants, with the costs fully borne by MOM.

In the construction sector, a revised demerit point system has also been put in place.

Companies with poor safety performances will reach penalty thresholds more quickly, after which they will be barred from hiring foreign employees for up to two years.

A multi-sectoral workplace safety task force, which is advised by external experts, has been set up to look into strengthening work safety practices. 

The task force is chaired by Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad and comprises representatives from government agencies including the National Development, Sustainability and the Environment, Transport, and Trade and Industry ministries.

Workers and members of the public can report unsafe practices via MOM’s website. The identities of whistle-blowers will remain anonymous. 

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