852 Safety Violations Uncovered, 16 Stop Work Orders Issued During 'Operation Sky Hawk II'
Inspections part of MOM's nation-wide blitz to address Work at Height safety lapses
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) conducted nearly 1,000 surprise worksite inspections under "Operation Sky Hawk II" over the past 5 weeks to ferret out companies which violate safety regulations, particularly for work conducted at height. The intensified inspections are part of national efforts to cut workplace fatalities arising from the top killer in workplaces – Falls From Height1. In a briefing earlier this year, the National Work at Height Taskforce recommended stepping up of such intervention measures. This first series of inspections is part of the 2,000 inspections that MOM will conduct on work at height issues over a three-month-period (April – June 2010).
852 Workplace Safety and Health violations uncovered
A total of 852 Workplace Safety and Health violations were uncovered at almost half of the w3orksites inspected by MOM. MOM also slapped worksites with 16 stop work orders and advised employers of these worksites to rectify their safety lapses before work can commence at these sites. Fines of up to $200,000 were issued during "Operation Sky Hawk II". Almost 200 of the worksites had work at height-related safety lapses with the majority identified in the construction (52%) and manufacturing (5%) sectors2. Please see Annex A for photos of the common safety lapses.
Common work at height safety lapses identified during the inspections at the construction worksites include unsecured openings without barricades, tripping hazards, lack of proper access to and from work areas, and unsafe scaffolds. In the manufacturing sectors, open sides with a lack of barriers at the sides of mezzanines floor and staircases, improper access especially the usage of ladders in poor working condition and bad housekeeping resulting in tripping hazards, were some of the common contraventions found. Please see Annex B for a breakdown of common safety lapses in the construction and manufacturing sectors.
Work at Height remains a top priority
Mr Ho Siong Hin, Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health, MOM said, "MOM is fully committed to putting a stop to falls from height risks at our workplaces. From 2006 to date, we have seen 100 deaths resulting from falls from height. These deaths could have been prevented if employers took the necessary measures or if workers had followed safety rules. As seen during "Operation Sky Hawk II" and past inspections conducted by MOM, we will not hesitate to take parties who fail to follow safety rules to task. However, enforcement alone cannot improve safety outcomes – industry too must do its part to keep their worksites safe. We strongly urge companies and individuals to pay heed to our call to improve their safety practices."
Smaller worksites engaged during Safety Compliance Assistance Visits
In addition to MOM's "Operation Sky Hawk II", the National Work at Height Taskforce's Safety Compliance Assistance Visit (SCAV) Vans have also fanned out to reach out smaller worksites. To date, they have visited more than 200 such worksites, reaching out to brief more than 900 supervisors and workers on fall protection equipments. They aim to reach 1,000 smaller worksites by June 2010. Please see Annex C for background information on the role of SCAV.
National Work at Height Taskforce Chairman Wong Weng Sun elaborated on the progress so far, He said, "Through the SCAV, we aim to reach out, engage and educate smaller worksites on work at height issues. The SCAV complements the enforcement efforts by MOM to keep work at height safety lapses in check, as work at height remains a top killer in workplaces. The Taskforce has seen a good start in our engagement efforts to get more industry players on board to make improvements on work at height safety. In a short few weeks, we have visited 200 workplaces. Contractors have been responsive and receptive to the assistance rendered to help them improve their safety practices. They also readily took their workers off work to listen and learn from these SCAV sessions. We are happy to see the industry's willingness to take ownership of safety in the right spirit."
Upcoming Cluster Operations in Punggol
In addition to the on-going inspections under "Operation Sky Hawk II", MOM will be conducting the next Cluster Operations (COPS)3 at construction sites in the Punggol area. The COPS will take place from 14 June to 25 June, and detect safety lapses including work at height issues. COPS is a workplace safety inspection programme in which specific clusters of workplaces are selected to be inspected over a specified period of time. The selected cluster of workplaces would be announced before each operation through MOM's website, e-mail alerts to subscribers and letters to the worksites affected to encourage these companies to take steps to improve safety and health standards prior to the inspections.
Companies will be taken to task
Companies that fail to ensure workplace safety may be charged under the Workplace Safety and Health Act, which carries a maximum fine of $500,000. Individuals can also be charged under the WSH Act for a maximum fine of $200,000 and/or 24 months jail term. Besides issuing fines and warnings, MOM officers will also issue stop work orders in workplaces that present immediate danger to the workers."
1 Falls from height is the top killer in workplaces and account for almost 30% of all fatalities since 2006
2 Close to 700 inspections were conducted in the manufacturing sector and up to 300 others in the construction sector.
3 More details on the upcoming Cluster Operation can be found on MOM's website.