Ministry of Manpower of the Republic of Singapore

07/03/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/02/2024 22:23

Guest of Honour Address at SCAL Environment Health and Safety Campaign 2024

Guest-of-Honour Address at SCAL Environment Health and Safety Campaign 2024

Dr Tan See Leng, Minister for Manpower, BCA Academy

Mr Lee Kay Chai, President of Singapore Contractors Association Limited (SCAL)

Industry Partners,

Award recipients,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

1. I'm delighted to be here today at SCAL's annual Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) Campaign.

a. SCAL has played a significant and outsized role in promoting and influencing workplace safety and health or WSH in the construction sector.
i. It provides training and resources for contractors looking to create a safer and more productive work environment.
ii. And is one of MOM's key partners that provide pertinent feedback on WSH policies and issues, and has been instrumental in rallying all of you, its members, to improve industry safety standards and practices.

b. One excellent effort by SCAL is the annual EHS campaign.
i. It fosters a culture of safety excellence by celebrating and showcasing companies with good WSH innovations.
ii. Thank you SCAL for promoting best practices that safeguard the well-being of our workers!


2. In 2023, we achieved a significant improvement in Singapore's WSH performance.
a. It was the first time in the last decade, other than 2020 due to COVID-19, that our fatal injury rate fell below 1 per 100,000 workers.

b. Many of you would know that this was the target set by our then-Prime Minister Lee back in 2017, to achieve by 2028.We achieved this in 2023, five years ahead of time.
i. It was an ambitious target, achieved by only four OECD countries, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden on a consistent basis.

c. While we have achieved it ahead of schedule, the key is how we can consistently maintain it, and it depends on all of us not letting up our efforts.

3. The construction sector plays a very important part in sustaining this improvement, as it is one of the highest risk sectors in our economy.

a. Over the last decade, we have seen an encouraging improvement in the construction sector's WSH performance.

b. The sector's fatal injury rate reduced by about 40%, from 5.5 per 100,000 workers in 2014, to 3.4 in 2023.

c. This has been a big contributor to the national improvement in fatal injury rate.

4. While we are heartened and encouraged by this progress, we must continue to improve our standards.

a. In the last ten years, construction's fatal injury rate still averages to be at least 2.5 times higher than the national rate.

b. The fatal incident that occurred last week at the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link station in Woodlands is a very stern and solemn reminder for us to not let our guard down.


5. Therefore, construction contractors must entrench a culture of WSH excellence.

a. First, we have a moral duty to do right for our workers and by our workers.
i. They form the backbone in our construction sector.
ii. Many are migrant workers who leave their families behind to build our homes and infrastructure.
iii. Most of them are the sole breadwinners in their families.
iv. As their employers, it is our responsibility to ensure that they work in a safe and healthy environment.
v. And that they can ultimately return home joyously to their families safe and sound.

b. Second, workplace safety absolutely makes economic sense.
i. Workplace incidents result in direct costs to companies, such as workers' compensation for workplace injury and medical expenses, property losses, as well as indirect costs such as loss of productivity and future contracts.

c. We estimate this to be as high as $600,000 per company per fatal or major injury.
ii. The negative publicity from incidents also damages companies' reputation, and affects your ability to get new contracts.
a. No one wants to work with companies with poor safety records.

d. Contractors with poor WSH performance are also disqualified from participating in government tenders.

6. That's why I'm very happy that many in the industry have demonstrated innovation and commitment in raising WSH standards.

a. Through developing new technical solutions to reduce workplace safety risks,

b. and also inculcating strong safety culture and values in your workers and teams.

7. For instance:

a. At Expand Construction,
i. a team of innovators designed a Dynamic Glider System to facilitate safe transfer of materials for the construction of the Mandai Boardwalk.
ii. The glider system uses less manpower and makes it safer and easier for the workers to transfer materials over uneven terrains, improving their productivity by five times.
iii. I am heartened to see companies developing such ground-up and innovative solutions that reduce risks of injury in their daily operations.

b. In the area of inculcating safety culture and values, one example is Wee Chwee Huat Scaffolding's WSH Supervisor - Mr Arainith Kumar.
i. Mr Kumar goes the extra mile in raising individual workers' safety awareness.
ii. When workers report safety concerns, he acknowledges them on the monthly recognition board, and gets them a drink and breakfast to say thank you.
iii. These are small gestures that go a long way to signal that every worker can take ownership of WSH to mitigate risks.

c. As another example, we have Keller Foundations (South East Asia) Pte. Ltd, one of our SLOTS Award Winners today.
i. To underscore the importance of WSH, the management takes part in safety meetings and site inspections.
ii. They also introduced thorough training and assessment programmes that focus on identifying risky behaviours and preventing incidents.

d. These are just a few examples. In total, we have 11 exemplary award winners today,
i. who demonstrate that safety is a core tenet of companies' day-to-day operations and business processes.


8. Moving forward, we can also make better use of technology to raise safety performance and productivity at the level of the whole construction sector.

9. The Built Environment Industry Transformation Map sets out how the sector can do so.

a. One recommendation is to use Robotics & Automation to automate labour-intensive tasks like drilling and carrying materials on site.
i. By doing so, we can reduce workplace risks such as falling from height, and injuries associated with transporting heavy equipment.

b. Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA) is another game-changing method of construction.
i. It is where construction is designed for manufacturing off site in a controlled environment before being assembled on site.
ii. By doing so, you can reduce the construction time and manpower required.
iii. It will also be safer for workers as they can spend less time working at height.

10. Contractors can also use digital tools to supervise worksites and make sure that work is being done safely.

a. It has been about a month since the Video Surveillance System or VSS requirement for worksites with contract value of $5 million and above came into effect.

b. One in four contractors surveyed by MOM has gone above and beyond our requirement to include Artificial Intelligence (AI) video analytics, in addition to the basic VSS.
i. Take for instance, Zheng Keng Engineering & Construction.
Beyond MOM's VSS, they have added AI-enabled video analytics to alert the project team on safety issues in real time.

c. This has helped them to:
i. Save manpower resources deployed to do on-the-ground surveillance,
ii. And halve the frequency of weekly incidents from ten to five.
iii. This is heartening and I urge more contractors to adopt these technologies.

11. The Government will continue to support contractors in adopting proven technologies to improve safety, such as the stability control system (SCS) for lorry cranes.

12. Lorry cranes are often used near public areas.

a. If the crane topples, it can have a severe impact on workers and potentially even members of the public.

13. Over the past decade, among the lorry crane-related dangerous occurrences that have happened, 6 in 10 of them could have been prevented if the SCS had been installed.

a. I'm sure many of you know about the incident in May where a lorry crane used to lift a concrete bucket toppled and injured a worker.
The incident would likely have been prevented if the lorry crane was installed with SCS.

b. Hence, from 1 Jan 2025, MOM will require newly registered lorry cranes to be installed with the SCS.

14. Ideally, existing lorry cranes should also install the SCS.

a. However, we recognise that the installation could lead to downtime for existing lorries and increase business costs.

b. So, we strongly encourage owners of existing lorry cranes to install the SCS, but it is mandatory only for newly registered lorry cranes.

15. To help defray the installation costs, the Government has set up an SCS Grant.

a. Owners of both new and existing lorry cranes can claim up to 70% of the costs.

b. The grant is available for limited time.

c. So, hurry for the lorry!


16. I want to close with a very special heartfelt thanks to SCAL. We went through one of the most difficult periods during Covid. I was personally involved in our fortnightly huddle, and I am very grateful and appreciative of your support, cooperation, understanding and patience. Many of whom are SCAL Council Members here today.

17. SCAL always has a special place in my heart, and in the hearts of all my MOM colleagues because of the difficult period. It was a baptism of fire all the more because I was a first time Minister. I would like to use this opportunity to thank SCAL and all of your members for your unwavering commitment to WSH, and for being proactive, to be open to the use of technology.

18. Building a safety culture is the right thing to do, and is good for your business.

19. I hope that we can continue to work together and elevate the WSH performance in the construction sector.

20. Thank you!