03 November 2011
In the first nine months of this year, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) stopped work at 37 worksites, and uncovered more than 1,800 work at height (WAH) safety and health violations.
More than half of these worksites were also slapped with fines. As part of the Ministry's ongoing WAH enforcement blitz to curb fall from height (FFH) fatalities, inspectors from MOM’s Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate (OSHI) visited close to 4,500 worksites across construction sites, shipyards and general factory premises this year. In the first half of 2011 alone, 13 lives were lost due to FFH accidents, compared to 9 lives for the same period in 2010.
Safety Lapses uncovered
During MOM's recent inspections, common enforcement findings at most worksites included unsecured openings without proper barricades, lack of proper access to and from work areas and failure to provide adequate anchorage for use of fall protection equipment during work at height such as roof works. (Please see Annex A for details and photos of common safety lapses).
An emerging trend of unsafe work on roofs and ladders
There has been an emerging trend of fatal falls involving workers doing roof maintenance work, replacement of skylight and removal or replacement of roofing materials in existing factory premises. In these fatal accidents, the contractors were found to be negligent and irresponsible with unsafe work procedures such as, unsafe access to roof areas and lack of proper fall protection equipment such as safety harness with anchorage. Fatalities involving ladders were mainly caused by unsafe use of the A-frame ladder in manufacturing works, warehousing operations and electrical works. (Please see Annex B for recommendations on working safely on roofs and ladders).
Table 1: Fall from Roofs and Ladders Statistics
MOM warns 150 contractors on unsafe roof works
In order to curb this dangerous trend, MOM summoned 150 small roofing contractors to attend a WAH awareness and compliance session in August this year. Mostly from the construction industry, these contractors had been fined and issued notice of non-compliance by for unsafe WAH practices over the past 9 months. MOM will continue to monitor the safety standards of these contractors through inspections and surprise visits.
MOM will review stricter measures to enforce WAH safety
Mr. Suresh Navaratnam, MOM's Director Policy, Information and Corporate Services for Occupational Safety & Health said, "Fall-from-height (FFH) accidents are entirely preventable. MOM is concerned with the spike in FFH fatalities this year. There remain groups of errant employers1 that fail to take proactive measures against FFH and continue to risk the lives of their workers. In order to prevent such negligent behaviour MOM will step up its targeted enforcement, including surprise inspections. We will also continue working with WSH Council to educate employers and workers on the importance of a fall prevention plan".
MOM steps up enforcement on WAH
From October to December this year, the Ministry will inspect over 1,000 worksites in the construction and marine industry for WAH safety lapses. Inspections will cover checks on roof and ladder works. MOM reminds employers that companies that fail to ensure workplace safety may be charged under the Workplace Safety and Health Act, which carries a maximum fine of $500,000. Individuals can also be charged under the WSH Act for a maximum fine of $200,0002 and/or 24 months jail term. Besides issuing fines and warnings, MOM officers will also issue stop work orders in workplaces that present immediate danger to the workers.
1 The construction industry has been the major contributor to FFH fatalities this year. However there is an emerging trend that the FFH fatalities from the manufacturing as well as the logistics and transport industries have been rising as well.
2 The sole proprietor of Rinyato Construction &Renovation was fined $10,000 in June 2011 under Section 12(1) of the WSH Act. The employer failed to take reasonably practicable measures to prevent his worker from falling over while working at the edge of the roof.