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Developers urged to pay contractors safety bonus as workplace accidents rise

03:04 Min
The Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore (REDAS) will encourage its members to pay out safety bonuses to incentivise contractors with good Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) performance. Clara Lee with more.

SINGAPORE: The Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore (REDAS) will encourage its members to pay out safety bonuses to incentivise contractors with good Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) performance.

These will be given out at specific project milestones, to promote safer work practices. 

“This would be a strong carrot in aligning contractors’ business interests with good WSH practices,” said Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad on Thursday (Aug 25).

He added that developers have “tremendous influence” as service buyers to raise safety standards and reward contractors for good safety performance.

Mr Zaqy also announced other measures to improve workplace safety at the REDAS Safety Leadership Forum held at the Fullerton Hotel.

There have been 34 workplace deaths to date this year. Construction workplace deaths have been trending up after COVID-19 work stoppages, and of the fatalities this year, 12 cases or almost 40 per cent were from the construction industry.

The number of major injuries this year is “similarly worrying”, said Mr Zaqy. Despite an overall drop over the last decade, the construction industry recorded 84 major injuries so far in the first half of 2022.

This would be the worst performance since 2014 if the figure is annualised to the whole of 2022, which the senior minister of state called “disheartening and unacceptable”.

Giving the opening address at the forum, Mr Zaqy noted that the inculcation of a safety culture must start with top management, and that property developers sit at the “very top of the construction sector”.

“As developers, you are in the best position to take safety leadership because you set WSH standards through your contract specifications when selecting contractors,” he said.

“You determine the pace of work, and you are also in a position to reward safe behaviour and penalise poor ones.”

President of REDAS Chia Ngiang Hong said that leadership styles are moving from a top-down hierarchical approach to being more collaborative.

"Today's construction and infrastructure projects are increasingly complex and larger in scale, which place even greater importance on safety at worksites through collaborative leadership," he said.

He added that collaborative leadership is even more important in times where there is a manpower crunch amid construction backlogs, cost escalation, supply chain issues and financial challenges.


Giving a rundown of MOM’s enhanced measures to address the recent spate of accidents, Mr Zaqy said that the ministry has stepped up enforcement and doubled fines for WSH infringements.

He said that workers need to feel empowered to raise safety issues they see on the ground, so signboards at construction sites will show a QR code linking to MOM, together with its safety hotline.

“They should raise red flags to their supervisors, but if the supervisors do not listen, they need to know how they can report to MOM,” he said.

The ministry has also revised the WSH Guidelines for Design for Safety, and provided detailed checklists for the reference of developers and contractors. This way, they can incorporate safety in the planning and design phase of projects, said Mr Zaqy.

He also highlighted that companies need to be self-motivated to be safe and this often depends on the culture and processes set by top management.

To encourage that, MOM is finalising the Code of Practice (COP) on Chief Executives’ and Board of Directors’ WSH Duties and The draft COP is available for public consultation. 

The COP will spell out WSH responsibilities for management and boards, and the courts may consider the COP when assessing the culpability of company leaders and its board, when an accident occurs.

“Some specific ways to set and demand high WSH standards are: To take vendors’ and contractors’ WSH performance into account when choosing them; to disqualify unsafe companies from being awarded your contracts; and
to reward vendors and contractors with good WSH performance,” he said.

The safety bonus would be one way to reward the companies with good practices. 

“Here, I would like to commend the REDAS members that already have this good practice,” said Mr Zaqy.

“For example, Keppel Land and City Developments Limited, who have both introduced incentive schemes for good WSH performance for all their projects.

“I look forward to more REDAS members demonstrating such strong safety leadership.”

Mr Zaqy noted that some REDAS members are also using technology to improve safety standards.

Ms Tay Seok Cheng, head of projects at CDL, said that the developer has paid out rewards for more than 20 years to main contractors who achieve sterling safety results. Contractors who ace their safety assessments for the entire year can get a sum of S$30,000.

Ms Tay said that this incentive has worked well for CDL and motivates their subcontractors and workers to be safe.

"It's about whether you believe safety is really important. I think human life should not be neglected; everybody should do their part on that," said Ms Tay.

Developers can also use the enhanced e-service CheckSAFE to find out more about a company’s safety record when appointing vendors.

“Taking CheckSafe records into account when selecting contractors will create a virtuous cycle where main contractors will equate safety performance with business opportunities and result in them managing your sites and choosing their sub-contractors with safety in mind,” he said.

“In the end, developers benefit from stronger safety performance, lower risk of work stoppage due to accidents, and certainly a better reputation.”

Singapore as a whole has a good reputation for safety, but standards have slipped recently due to COVID-19, said Mr Zaqy.

"This is something we need to review ... we've made a lot of improvements, so let's continue and let's keep up Singapore as one of the safest countries to work for."

Source: CNA/hm(ac)


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