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Use of partitions in lorries to separate foreign workers 'not secure', say authorities

Use of partitions in lorries to separate foreign workers 'not secure', say authorities

Screengrab of an online video by Shin Kai Construction demonstrating how the back of a lorry can be partitioned to transport foreign workers for safe distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak.

SINGAPORE: The proposed set-up of partitions in a lorry that was seen in a widely circulated video is not "secure" and could "endanger" its occupants as well as other road users, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Thursday (May 14). 

In response to queries from CNA, the authorities said that they were aware of a video showing the installation of partitions on a lorry, seemingly as a way to separate foreign workers into individual compartments.

The video was part of a demonstration video and proposal sent by the construction firm to MOM on Tuesday for consultation, the authorities said.

The video was taken at the workshop of the construction firm, and the proposed partitions set-up has not been put into use, said MOM and LTA.

In the video, workers are seen taking turns to alight a lorry by swinging open a partition. 

"MOM and LTA have collectively assessed that any sudden movement while travelling on the roads might dislodge the partitions and endanger occupants as well as other road users," they said.

MOM contacted the company on Wednesday and "clarified with them that the proposed set-up of the partitions in the rear of the lorry was not secure".

"We have informed the company of our assessment and advised them to review its plan," the authorities said.

MOM said it has issued specific guidelines on its website for firms to comply with, with regards to safe distancing while transporting the workers.

The new rules mean each lorry is now permitted to carry fewer workers than before. 

"We urge companies to reach out to the authorities to seek necessary clarification on safe distancing measures for lorries," said the authorities.

Screengrab of an online video by Shin Kai Construction demonstrating how the back of a lorry can be partitioned to transport foreign workers for safe distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak.

CONSTRUCTION FIRM APOLOGISES

The construction firm behind the video apologised on Thursday, saying that it was "surprised" at the amount of "interest in the video and comments from online netizens".

The 1-minute clip was an internal demonstration video of the company's "partitioned lorry arrangement", said Shin Khai Construction in a Facebook post.

"While some comments are encouraging, we regret to hear that the video might have portrayed the way we treated our workers as inhumanely and without care. We wished to issue an apology on this," it added. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the construction industry, the company said it was trying to find solutions - the partitioned lorry arrangement being one of them. 

"As we need to conform to the safe distancing rules, our lorry capacity was greatly reduced from 23 pax to 6 pax, which will be of great concern for our built environment," said Shin Kai Construction.

"We were also advised to do more trips to ferry our workers if need to," it added. 

The company said that it is hoping to propose its design to the authorities so as to increase the lorry capacity to 12 people. 

"This will help in reducing workers waiting time, delay in these event and other traffic issues." 

Source: CNA/ad

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