New $4m tech grant for construction firms to address spike in crane-related workplace accidents

The grant comes after the number of crane-related dangerous incidents nearly quadrupled to 15 cases last year. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Construction firms can now tap a $4 million grant to outfit their lorry cranes with technology that prevents them from being overloaded or toppling.

This comes after the number of crane-related dangerous incidents nearly quadrupled to 15 cases in 2022, contributing to six of the 46 workplace fatalities that year.

The grant was announced by Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad at the 11th Workplace Safety and Health Symposium on Cranes on Monday.

Mr Zaqy said the rise in crane-related incidents over the past year was concerning. 

Two crane-related deaths occurred just in December. In the first case, a worker was struck by a dislodged cut tree trunk which he was helping to load onto a lorry crane.

In the second case, a worker was struck by the crane’s boom, which fell during the unloading of steel bars from a lorry crane. 

The workers in both cases were not adequately trained to perform the tasks, and investigations found that safety preparations were not made. 

“It reinforces my concern earlier that not all companies have heeded the heightened safety period,” said Mr Zaqy. 

To that end, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is considering extending the safety period after the end of February. The safety period was implemented in September 2022 for six months. 

MOM had taken sterner enforcement action during this period. More than 600 composition fines totalling more than $1.3 million have been issued since September 2022.

Additionally, 11 companies have been banned from hiring new work pass holders due to safety violations at worksites, and 19 company directors have been convicted in the past five years. 

Ten of those convictions occurred in 2022, with nine issued fines and one given a jail sentence. 

Companies in the industry welcomed news of the grant. United Tec Construction managing director Allan Tan Gin Hai said: “I think it is a good thing. Anything to improve safety is a good measure. More so as the Government is providing subsidies.”

Other companies said they are already taking steps to improve safety at their worksites. 

During the heightened safety period, Teambuild Engineering and Construction held frequent site inspections, coordination meetings and discussions with the safety team, among other measures. 

Deputy director Allan Low Yong Hui said: “I believe it’s time for all the companies to step up and make the necessary changes.”

Companies in all sectors and businesses can apply for the grant from March 2023 till March 2025 to buy and install stability control systems on new or existing lorry cranes that are less than 17 years old and have been bought from authorised agents. 

The grant will fund 70 per cent of hardware, software and installation costs, capped at $7,000 per lorry crane and $20,000 per company. 

These cranes must be for use in Singapore. 

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