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Monday, 21 April 2014

Worker shortage blamed for rise in worksite deaths

CONSTRUCTION industry players are blaming a sharp rise in worksite deaths on the shortage of workers coupled with pressure to complete projects on time.

With workers being made to put in longer hours, they told The Sunday Times, fatigue can set in and accidents happen.

The Workplace Safety and Health Council revealed earlier this month that 33 out of 59 of all workplace deaths last year occurred at construction sites.

And in the first three months of this year, construction has accounted for 12 out of 19 workplace fatalities – an average of a death a week.

“The manpower cuts over the past few years are severe,” said Straits Construction executive director Kenneth Loo, referring to the increase in foreign worker levies and cutting of man-year entitlements.

The Man-Year Entitlement reflects the total quota of foreign construction workers allocated to a contractor for a specific project.

He explained that as the sector still relies heavily on labour, it is “quite common” for companies to make their workers clock extra hours to meet deadlines and avoid financial penalties.

“When they do overtime continuously, fatigue can kick in and in­crease the risk of accidents,” he said.

Derick Pay, director of Tiong Seng Contractors, agreed: “Workers may not get enough rest, and this affects safety.”

Another contractor of 18 years who declined to be named believes many accidents have happened because projects were being rushed.

Contractors and workers alike said that poor attitudes towards safety make matters worse.

Jimmy Chua, group general manager of Huationg Holdings, recalled an incident last year in which a worker from India kicked on a wrench he was using to tighten a bolt. The metallic tool pierced his right boot and and foot.

Worker Liang Ke, 25, said: “Everybody wants to finish the job faster. Who thinks about safety when rushing?”

The Workplace Safety and Health Council plans to tackle the problem of rising construction deaths with new safety programmes and stricter enforcement.

Some companies hope to improve the situation by giving their workers incentives to shape up on safety. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network


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