Construction firms rely on on-site workers, pest control companies to prevent mosquito breeding during circuit breaker

Construction firms rely on on-site workers, pest control companies to prevent mosquito breeding during circuit breaker

Singapore worker fumigates dogging mosquito dengue construction site
A worker wearing a face mask fumigates a construction site to prevent the spread of dengue fever in Singapore on Apr 17, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: Regular checks are being done at construction sites to prevent mosquito breeding, said companies CNA spoke to, even as the enhanced “circuit breaker” measures require most construction workers to stay away.

All work permit and S Pass holders in the construction industry are currently on stay-home notice as a precautionary measure to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Employers may, however, seek exemption from the authorities for workers to conduct essential services such as mosquito control.

READ: COVID-19: All work permit and S pass holders in construction sector to be placed on stay-home notice

In response to CNA’s queries, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) said only a minimum number of foreign workers are allowed to remain on-site to perform essential tasks.

“(Other than a select number of strategic projects), contractors must continue to ensure that security, environmental control (including preventing mosquito breeding) and safety of building works are not compromised during the circuit breaker period,” said BCA.

“These workers who are approved to work on these strategic projects and performing essential works at all other construction sites are mostly staying at the construction sites or are allowed to travel only between the work site and their place of residence,” it added.

As the dengue peak season approaches, some residents were concerned if construction sites could become mosquito breeding grounds, given that most of these workplaces are now left idle.

“They just started a lot of road works for the north-south corridor right outside my house,” said Ms Tessa Sam, who lives in Yio Chu Kang.

“There was this sign outside the construction site that said ‘Good housekeeping prevents mosquitoes breeding’ and it reminded me that when it’s raining, there is no one working, so when the rainwater collects there is no one to clear the water,” she said.

Ms Sam added that she has been finding mosquitoes all over her living room, although she is not sure if they are coming from the work site nearby.

READ: Weekly dengue cases remain ‘high’; total deaths this year rise to 7: NEA

READ: Dengue cases expected to exceed 16,000 cases unless immediate action taken: NEA

Companies told CNA that they have taken measures to ensure that worksites are well-maintained.

“During this period, we have successfully applied for exemption from complete suspension of workplace activities as we are concerned about possible mosquito breeding,” said Ms Jen Tan, senior vice president of Solar Singapore & SEA (Energy Division) of Sembcorp Industries.

She added that the exemption allows Sembcorp Industries employees to enter work sites to conduct regular checks during the duration of the extended circuit breaker.

“As an additional precaution, we have also briefed client facilities personnel on what to look out for so they can conduct their own checks and alert us if there are concerns,” she added.

Some of the measures taken include identifying and eliminating ponding areas, moving equipment to indoor storage wherever possible and covering construction materials left outside with canvas sheets to prevent water from collecting.

All these are part of the company’s regular housekeeping measures, and are conducted across all its solar work sites, said Ms Tan.

Sembcorp Industries has several solar construction projects which have been suspended due to the circuit breaker measures.

Chang Hua Construction said it relies on in-house workers for daily maintenance, and outsourced some of the work to pest control companies.

The construction firm has one temporarily suspended work site at Mactaggart Road in the MacPherson area.

Straits Construction, meanwhile, said it houses fewer than five workers at each of its six construction sites. The workers are isolated at their individual sites and do not travel out, said chief operating officer and executive director Kenneth Loo. 

According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), fewer construction sites have been found to have mosquito breeding, with a 30 per cent reduction over the past three years compared to the preceding three years.

“From NEA’s inspection records, the majority of mosquito breeding are still found in homes,” said the agency.

NEA added that it has conducted about 1,800 inspections at construction sites from January to Apr 22 this year, and issued 26 summons and two stop work orders. Two contractors will be charged in court for repeat offences.

“As the traditional dengue peak season is approaching, NEA will be stepping up dengue inspections at common properties and construction sites, where construction site operators continue to be responsible for vector control measures to be undertaken at all times.

“Even with the closure of businesses during the circuit breaker period, owners of premises and work sites need to ensure that adequate vector control measures are taken at all premises under their responsibility,” said a spokesperson.

NEA added that it issued advisories to the Singapore Contractors Association on Apr 3 to remind construction site operators to ensure proper upkeep of their sites to prevent mosquito breeding habitats.

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Source: CNA/cc(gs)

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