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MOM to adopt enforcement, regulatory strategies for workplace safety

The Manpower Ministry will review the Demerit Points System and tighten the lifting of a Stop Work Order to ensure companies adopt safe worksite practices.

SINGAPORE: The Manpower Ministry (MOM) will review the Demerit Points System and tighten the lifting of a Stop Work Order to ensure companies adopt safe worksite practices.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Hawazi Daipi, said this in Parliament on Monday in response to questions from West Coast GRC MP Foo Mee Har and Nominated Member of Parliament Associate Professor Eugene Tan on how MOM plans to strengthen safety measures at construction sites.

There were nine workplace fatalities in January alone and eight of them occurred in the construction industry.

Mr Hawazi said the recent spate of accidents could be due to companies rushing to complete projects on time as demand for construction activities rises.

A tighter labour market could also have meant companies are over-stretching their workforce but Mr Hawazi said constraints should not mean a compromise in safety.

He added MOM would apply for stronger penalties in cases where there are serious breaches of the law.

For those who have blatantly disregarded the law, Mr Hawazi said MOM would also ask for custodial sentences and press for maximum sentencing allowed under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.

Mr Hawazi said companies may need to fulfil new conditions for the Stop Work Order to be lifted and this could mean companies will have to undergo a refresher training course on key areas of weaknesses or a re-audit of their Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) management system.

MOM will also expand the scope of the Business Under Surveillance (BUS) Programme to more companies that require assistance if they have serious weaknesses in their WSH management systems.

The programme is an enforcement programme that targets poor performing companies and it puts them under MOM's close monitoring and supervision.

Mr Hawazi said details on the changes to the Demerit Points System will be released by the middle of this year after the end of the review.

The Demerit Points System, introduced in 2005, identifies contractors with poor work practices and restricts their access to foreign manpower if their safety records do not improve.

He was also asked how MOM could get stakeholders to recognise that the safety of their workers is actually a key productivity driver.

Mr Hawazi said: "We have seen some decline in performance and I think we can work with the industry to address them. Whether companies will take WSH record as a key productivity driver, I think it will take some time to sink in."

He added: "Contractors know that safety performance and safety record are taken into consideration when they bid for government-linked projects and I think they know the cost of not maintaining a good safety environment for their workers."

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