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New rules on construction industry likely after rise in workplace deaths

SINGAPORE — New conditions may be imposed on construction companies to ensure safety lapses are resolved before a stop-work order can be lifted, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Hawazi Daipi in Parliament yesterday.

SINGAPORE — New conditions may be imposed on construction companies to ensure safety lapses are resolved before a stop-work order can be lifted, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Hawazi Daipi in Parliament yesterday.

Also, firms may be required to conduct refresher training on key areas of weaknesses as well as a re-audit of their Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) management system, he added.

The Manpower Ministry’s (MOM) Demerit Points System for the construction sector, which identifies contractors with poor work practices and restrict their access to foreign manpower if they fail to improve their safety records, will also be reviewed. Currently, access to work permit holders is limited for six months if a main contractor accumulates more than 18 demerit points within a year.

The measures are part of a multi-prong approach that the ministry will adopt following a spike in workplace deaths in the past seven months. Injury and fatality rates in the construction industry have fallen in recent years, but the situation deteriorated around the second half of last year, with 22 workplace deaths reported.

“This was twice as many fatalities compared to the first half of the year, and five more compared to the same period in 2012,” said Mr Hawazi in response to questions filed by Member of Parliament (West Coast GRC) Foo Mee Har and Nominated Member Eugene Tan. “This worrying trend continued into 2014, with eight out of every nine workplace fatalities in January coming from the construction industry alone.”

According to industry feedback, the spike in such accidents was caused by companies rushing to meet project deadlines amid rising demand for construction activities, as well as the tighter labour market contributing to “overstretching their workers”, said Mr Hawazi.

Associate Professor Tan asked if the current approach of promoting WSH is working as, in the face of tight deadlines and labour markets, “the methods don’t seem to work”.

In response, Mr Hawazi said safety records in the past seven to eight years showed that the Republic has performed “quite well” in workplace safety. Recalcitrant violators, however, will have to be sent “a very strong signal” to ensure that workers will continue to work in safe environments, he added.

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