Construction deaths may be on the rise

Workplace deaths in the construction sector appear to be on the rise again after hitting a low last year.

The latest figures from the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council show that there were six worksite deaths in the first five months of this year, up from two in the same period last year.

The apparent uptick after a year when progress was made – the 12 fatalities in total for last year were half the 2016 total – has prompted industry associations to renew calls for companies to step up safety precautions on worksites.

Singapore Contractors Association Limited (Scal) president Kenneth Loo said that the fatality rate had fallen from 7.2 per 100,000 workers in 2013 to 2.6 per 100,000 last year, but was concerned that the number would increase again.

“Scal is calling on all members and construction companies to take immediate and effective steps to review all safety measures at their worksites,” he said at a workplace safety seminar organised by the association yesterday.

Speaking at the same event, Mr John Ng, chairman of the Workplace Safety and Health Council, said two issues in particular required special attention: falls from height and vehicle accidents. They were behind seven of the deaths and 32 of 110 serious injuries last year.

He said firms can participate in the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) Managing Onsite Vehicular Safety programme, to learn how to use technology to improve traffic management at worksites.

Another MOM programme, Mobile Work At Heights, which will begin in August, will teach firms how to better implement safety precautions for working at heights.

Mr Ng added: “Construction activities are expected to increase over the next few years… As we gear up for the activities, we must not let our guard down on safety and health.”

Seminar participant Raymond Leong, a senior workplace safety and health officer at Singapore Engineering and Construction, welcomed the move to boost safety standards.

“But we have to see how uneducated workers use such learning techniques,” he added.

Yesterday, Scal also announced two initiatives to improve conditions on site.

The first is the setting up of an expanded safety training school, in addition to the Scal Academy in Neil Road. The other is a guidebook on mosquito prevention at worksites, which Mr Loo said will be published by the end of the year.

Responding to the workplace safety figures, social work executive Jevon Ng, speaking on behalf of non-governmental organisation Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), said that there remains work culture problems that need to be addressed.

“Workers share that being under pressure to meet tight project deadlines, safety officers who do not guide but find fault, and fatigue from excessively long working hours are the main reasons safety is compromised at worksites,” he said.

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