Tech to boost workplace safety, green innovations recognised at LTA awards

Proximity sensors (in white) attached around an excavator. The sensors will alert the excavator operator of any workers in close proximity. PHOTO: HWA SENG BUILDER

SINGAPORE - From proximity sensors on excavators to wireless camera systems for crane booms, Mr Azry Tay has long been advocating for technology to be used to minimise accidents at work sites.

The workplace safety, health and environmental manager at Hwa Seng Builder has been in the job for over 10 years and seen safety improve thanks to such innovations.

The proximity sensors, for example, have eliminated the need for a banksman to direct the movement of excavators, cranes and other large vehicles. Such workers are thus no longer exposed to the risk of getting into an accident with these vehicles.

Still, there is more to learn and improve, said the 38-year-old, whose company is currently rebuilding a viaduct in Changi that had collapsed in 2017 during construction by a different contractor.

Construction of the viaduct connecting Tampines Expressway and the Pan Island Expressway was initially undertaken by local builder OKP Holdings but a collapse of a section in July 2017 - caused by a series of design flaws, safety lapses and cover-ups - killed one worker, injured 10, and delayed works.

Hwa Seng Builder eventually took over the project in late 2018.

On Tuesday (Nov 9), Mr Tay and his firm were among 69 companies, organisations and individuals recognised by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) for outstanding workplace safety, health and environment management practices.

Transport Minister S. Iswaran noted that LTA's safety record has improved significantly.

Speaking at the 23rd Annual Safety, Health and Environmental Award Convention, held virtually, he said the workplace injury rate for LTA and its contractors fell from 161.8 per 100,000 workers in 2016 to 78.2 per 100,000 workers last year.

In contrast, the workplace injury rate for the construction sector as a whole last year was 424 per 100,000 workers.

Mr Iswaran said the Covid-19 pandemic has provided opportunities for contractors and operators to embrace technology to improve workplace safety and health.

On its part, LTA said it has adopted video analytics to monitor high-risk work areas.

This is currently being implemented across construction sites for the first phase of the Cross Island Line. LTA said it will also include the provision of fatigue management systems in contract specifications for new projects.

The minister said LTA's commitment to environmentally sustainable practices "goes beyond just minimising our carbon footprint to having a positive impact on the environment, such as reducing noise from construction works".

This year's inaugural Environmental Sustainability Innovation Awards went to Shincon Industrial and Penta Ocean Construction and Bachy Soletanche Singapore jointly.

Shincon had used portable, reusable flooring instead of concrete to build a temporary footpath. Penta Ocean and Bachy Soletanche won for adopting a new type of retractable noise barrier - which can be set up in small spaces without the need for machinery - at their construction site of a section of the North-South Corridor between Suffolk Walk and Novena Drive.

A portable reusable flooring (left) used by Shincon Industrial to build a temporary footpath and new type of retractable noise barrier adopted by Penta Ocean Construction and Bachy Soletanche Singapore at a worksite. PHOTOS: LTA

Meanwhile, LTA said it is monitoring the construction materials used at its worksites to identify major sources of carbon emissions, reduce waste, and lower energy and water consumption.

It has plans to use green cement, a recycled by-product from steel production, to build permanent reinforced concrete structures in future civil projects. It is also exploring the use of reusable drains made of steel at construction sites instead of concrete ones.

Mr Iswaran said the pandemic has also highlighted the importance of managing workplace health, including mental health, citing the spate of Covid-19 cases among public bus workers about two months ago.

He commended bus operators and bus drivers for ensuring that wait times for most bus services did not increase even when 10 per cent of public bus drivers came down with the virus or were placed in quarantine.

Since then, LTA has been working with bus operators and the National Transport Workers' Union to help drivers to get their Covid-19 booster shots.

So far, half of those eligible have received their third dose.

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