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Tougher health and safety laws for Singapore construction

Singapore has introduced an enhanced penalty system for construction companies that fail to follow Singapore's health and safety laws.13 Mar 2015

Singapore's current demerit point system will be boosted from 1 July to make it more effective against companies who ignore safety rules, parliamentary secretary for manpower Hawazi Daipi said.

The system will be simplified to a single-stage system where accumulation of demerit points will trigger debarment of hiring foreign workers on a company-wide basis. Currently any ban is confined to specific contracts, Hawazi said.

Demerit points will now stand for 18 months instead of the current year, and the number of points will be calibrated to give more points for more serious offences.

The changes were based on a review of the current system, and on the results of consultation with the industry, Hawazi said.

Hawazi said that there were 60 workplace fatalities in Singapore last year, 13 fewer than in 2013.

"We have achieved our workplace fatality rate target of 1.8 per 100,000 workers four years ahead of the 2018 schedule. This did not happen by chance but is the result of a relentless effort to identify problem areas and implement multi-pronged measures," Hawazi said.

However, the construction industry accounted for 45% of the fatalities, "so we will continue to put a lot of resources and attention on the construction sector," Hawazi said.

Non-fatal injuries have also increased from 10,060 in 2011 to about 13,000 in 2014.

"We hope the enhanced [system] will help drive companies to put in greater coherent effort to address systemic safety lapses across all their worksites," Hawazi said.

Boon Tat Yeo, a Singapore-based lawyer with Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com. said: "The number of fatalities in the construction industry remains a concern. The sector is presently being closely monitored by the authorities, and further regulatory measures can be expected if safety infringements do not show any improvement."

New rules have also been put in place for major hazard installations (MHIs), to bring Singapore into line with international practice. A set of MHI regulations will be implemented in 2017, and a national MHI regulatory office will be set up in 2016 to better coordinate assessments, inspections and investigations.