WSH Council’s suggestions on workplace safety

Workers erect scaffolding at a construction site in Singapore (file picture)

SINGAPORE: Developers should insist that main contractors specify safety measures and costs in their tender price.

Trade—specific tests should be expanded overseas to ensure workers meet minimum skills requirements before they come to work in Singapore.

These are the key recommendations of the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council to make the workplace a safer place.

The council made the recommendations in response to findings in a Construction WSH Study.

Commissioned by the WSH Council’s construction and landscape committee, the study involved focus group discussions with 100 industry players and surveys with more than 1,000 workers.

In the study, small— and medium—sized enterprises (SMEs) had cited cost as the biggest hurdle in the effort for workplace safety measures and practices.

They said they would reduce WSH budgets to lower their price quotations so that they can secure bids, especially if contract owners did not specify requirements clearly during the tender stage.

The SMEs surveyed also called for WSH to be considered earlier, at the planning and design stage of construction projects and not only at the construction stage.

But Mr Jackson Yap, the chairman of the WSH Council’s construction and landscape committee, said putting safety first has its benefits.

He said: "If you work safely, you don’t have stop—orders, you can work continuously. MOM (Ministry of Manpower) doesn’t disturb you. Also, we are introducing the DfS, the Design for Safety. If they do their pre—planning properly, the workflow would be smoother and better, so effectively it’s not a cost but rather a benefit."

To help companies make safety part and parcel of their operations, the WSH Council launched on Wednesday the Design for Safety (DfS) Recognition Scheme.

It recognises the efforts of companies in applying DfS principles adequately in the planning and design stages of their projects.

The scheme consists of two award categories— — the DfS Mark and the DfS Award.

The DfS Mark will be awarded to new projects that have adopted DfS effectively and showcased competent DfS teams, while the DfS Award will recognise projects with exemplary design measures to address critical risk elements and deliver good WSH outcomes.

The council is seeking feedback on its recommendations from the industry.

Meanwhile SME contractors Channel NewsAsia spoke to said that factoring in safety measures into their tender prices will raise their costs by some two to three per cent.

However, they feel it is better to put safety first from the start rather than incurring more costs like financial penalties down the road when safety is compromised later.

Chua Chian Hong, director of Megastone Holdings, said: "(There’s a cost element for every safety planning but) in the long run, avoidance of accident will prevent occurrence of heavy cost. We don’t want to end up spending a lot of money trying to rectify an accident."

Lim Kim Hai Electric Co chairman Louis Lim, who is also the president of Specialists Trade Alliance of Singapore which represents 10 trade associations and 1,300 companies, said: "Any injuries or if anything happens, there’s always a stoppage of work. There’ll be delay in the project and that costs time. Nobody likes that."

As for the need for trade—specific tests to be expanded overseas, the Construction WSH Study found that one in five workers from SMEs in the construction industry did not have relevant experience before coming to Singapore.

One in four did not receive any training beyond the Construction Safety Orientation Course (CSOC).

The council wants accredited trade—specific WSH training curriculum beyond the CSOC to be developed to further enhance skills and competencies.

The DfS scheme and study findings were unveiled at the inaugural Construction WSH Convention on Wednesday.

— CNA/wk/fa