Sunday, 24 February 2013

27 sites ordered to stop work

Firms also fined over $350,000 after safety inspections beefed up
By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 23 Feb 2013

TWENTY-SEVEN sites were slapped with stop-work orders after workplace safety and health inspectors stepped up checks late last year.

Firms were also given fines totalling more than $350,000 by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

Targeted at the construction industry, the inspections - jointly dubbed Operation Talon - covered 529 worksites run by 378 firms.

The blitz came in a year which registered several high-profile accidents, such as a scaffolding collapse at the Bugis Downtown Line site that killed two people and the tilting of an oil rig in Jurong Shipyard which injured 89 workers.

The ministry ramped up safety inspections from August last year. But so far this year, eight workers have died in work accidents, compared with seven in the same period last year.

Operation Talon dished out 1,093 fines and notices of non-compliance, or warnings, with the most common lapses involving working at heights.

For instance, at one worksite of a five-storey apartment block development, barricades were not set up on the third storey. A floor down, only "ineffective" plastic tape was used as barricades for gaps in the scaffolding.

Work-at-height safety violations were present at 19 of the 27 sites which received stop-work orders, and accounted for more than a fifth of all fines and warnings.

Also common were lapses connected with scaffolding. These were found in 14 of the 27 sites.

At one site, a work platform was not secured to the scaffolding on which it rested.

Other common shortcomings were linked to excavation and formwork.

Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, who revealed these details at the annual bizSAFE Convention yesterday, raised the point that it does not pay to rush to meet deadlines and neglect safety.

"The fact is, by being fast, you end up being slow," he said, noting that almost 400 workdays were lost due to stop-work orders under Operation Talon. Apart from simply being "the right thing to do", good workplace safety can also boost staff retention and morale, and build a firm's reputation.

Yesterday, 11 companies received awards for their commitment to the bizSAFE programme, which helps firms raise workplace safety and health standards. There are now 14,000 companies on the scheme.

One award recipient is LSK Engineering, whose managing director Roger Heng said: "Safety will definitely help to ensure that you deliver good projects on time, and with less disruption."

Workplace Safety and Health Council chairman Lee Tzu Yang also announced three enhancements to bizSAFE.

An e-learning option may be made available for top management taking the level 1 workshop.

Two bizSAFE courses are now aligned with the Singapore Workforce Development Agency's Workforce Skills Qualifications framework, letting firms tap funding of up to 90 per cent.

Guidelines for the programme's risk management audit have also been tightened.

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