Drop in number of construction worksite deaths

There was one death on construction sites in the first five months of this year, compared with an average of six deaths per quarter last year
There was one death on construction sites in the first five months of this year, compared with an average of six deaths per quarter last year. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Reduction due to collective effort by firms to improve safety, says Sam Tan

The construction sector saw one workplace death in the first five months of this year, down from an average of six deaths per quarter last year.

There were 24 workplace deaths in the sector last year, 17 of which occurred in the first six months of the year.

The sole death this year happened in March, when a worker was hit by a steel plate at a construction site near Changi Airport.

Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan yesterday attributed the reduction to a collective effort by construction companies to improve workplace safety.

"It is up to each of us to take the initiative in being more vigilant of our surroundings, assess the work situation and take steps to address the work hazard," he told about 200 company representatives at a workplace safety seminar organised by the Singapore Contractors Association Limited (Scal).

However, he flagged major injuries as a concern - especially those involving workers falling from heights or being struck by moving vehicles.

There were 22 serious injuries in the construction sector in the first quarter of this year. Last year, there was a total of 153.

To beef up safety, the Manpower Ministry will launch a programme called Managing Onsite Vehicular Safety in August.

This will see workplace safety and health (WSH) consultants visiting and assessing worksites to guide employers on better traffic safety management.

Mr Tan said WSH professionals who focus on the safety of those working at heights will also conduct more site visits this year.

Separately, the National Crane Safety Taskforce will produce a video on preventive safety measures to take when using cranes to lift objects.

In 2015, the construction sector had set a target of reducing the fatality rate to less than 1.8 per 100,000 workers by next year.

While it has yet to meet that goal, the fatality rate of 4.9 per 100,000 workers last year was the lowest since 2007.

Scal president Kenneth Loo said awareness about safety had gone up after the spate of accidents last year: "The whole industry came together and the message that we needed to buck up got through."

He urged construction bosses to instil a mindset of safety consciousness among their staff, invest in safety training and use better construction methods with less on-site work.

He also hopes the authorities will list separate WSH provisions in tender requirements for all government construction projects.

This would give contractors a separate budget for safety measures and prevent them from cutting corners, as they will not be paid the sum if they do not meet safety requirements.

Ms Debbie Fordyce, executive committee member of migrant workers help group Transient Workers Count Too, said that many workers know about safety procedures.

However, the high cost of hiring manpower and the pressure to meet deadlines means some bosses push their workers to work many overtime hours, which leads to fatigue, she said.

"Companies looking to cut costs may not invest in heavy machinery, which can mean more manual work and more risk for the workers," she added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2017, with the headline 'Drop in number of construction worksite deaths'. Print Edition | Subscribe