Friday 17 August 2012

MOM to Step Up Surprise Worksite Inspections

By Chia Yan Min, The Straits Times, 16 Aug 2012

MORE safety checks will be carried out at construction sites following the recent spate of worksite accidents.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) yesterday said the inspections, which are conducted without prior notice to site workers, will focus on three areas: demolition, working at heights, and structures filled with concrete.

It added that the "frequency and intensity" of its checks would be increased by 50 per cent over the next four weeks, but it did not elaborate.

About 3,000 construction sites are checked by MOM every year; currently there are about 4,000 in Singapore.

The ministry's move comes after recent high-profile worksite accidents, including the East Village Hotel fire last month, and the collapse of a carpark in UIC Building on Aug 2.

Mr Kevin Teoh, the director of MOM's Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate, said all accidents are preventable, adding: "The management of safety is all about planning."

The recent accidents occurred even as the number of workplace deaths declined in the first half of the year. From January to June, nine deaths were reported in the construction sector, down from 12 over the same period last year.

Safety lapses uncovered during site inspections may lead to a fine or a stop-work order issued by MOM.

Examples of safety lapses that can warrant such orders include insufficient barricades, unstable scaffolding and exposed wires.

The worksites involved in the recent accidents have all been issued these orders.

Contractors said the stop-work orders can be costly if not lifted after a prolonged time.

Some possible costs include the loss of resources from rented equipment not being used and utility bills, said Mr Tony Tang, the chief financial officer of construction and property-related group KSH Holdings.

"When work resumes, the contractor will need to double efforts to catch up with the completion deadline, for example, by hiring more workers, which leads to more costs," he added.

EL Development managing director Lim Yew Soon said that sometimes, accidents can happen despite all preventive measures being taken.

"However, if accidents occur because contractors want to cut costs without regard for safety, then they should be penalised."

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