Monday, 16 April 2012 13:20
New initiatives to address Falls from Heights fatalities
- The Ministry of Manpower and the Workplace Safety and Health Council’s National Work at Heights (WAH) Taskforce have rolled out new initiatives to address falls from heights (FFH) fatalities. Efforts will be focused on four key areas of WAH - roof works, ladder use, structures, and scaffolds or mobile elevated work platforms (MEWPs). Industries performing such work will be actively engaged and educated on the safety of such work under the Programme-based Engagement (ProBE) Plus initiative1 this year.
- Falls from Heights (FFH) remain the highest contributor of workplace fatalities, claiming the lives of 17 workers last year. Nine of these workers (or more than half of cases) died after falling from roofs and ladders2. The new initiatives are part of a three-pronged WAH Masterplan to tackle WAH issues through raising awareness, capability building and intervention efforts.
New initiatives targeting Roof works and Ladder Safety
- One of these initiatives is the introduction of a new Guide on Working Safely on Roofs3 – a concise handbook highlighting safe practices and salient points related to roof works, such as fragile roof hazards. Contractors engaged in roof works will be required to implement measures that can allow workers to work safely on roofs and not be subjected to the risks of falls. Measures recommended in the guide include installing independent lifelines, and providing workers with safety harnesses and proper equipment (such as crawl boards) to work on roofs. The guide will be disseminated through the Safety Compliance Assistance Visits4 to reach out to worksites where roofworks are ongoing, to help contractors enhance their safety management. MOM and the WSH Council will also engage both roof and general contractors involved in roof works in targeted workshops over the next few months.
- With the extensive use of ladders across many workplaces, it is critical to educate workers to use them properly. A new Ladder Safety engagement effort has been launched to foster the safe and correct use of ladders. MOM and the WSH Council will be partnering with trade associations and leading hardware stores to distribute a newly developed Ladder Safety Pack5, targeting trades and industries with high ladder usage such as electrical workers. The Pack is made up of a ladder safety handbook and stickers to be distributed to relevant workers. The ladder safety handbook advises workers when they can use ladders for specific jobs and when they should consider other equipment, such as scissor lifts. The stickers serve as prominent displays with key tips on ladder safety, such as the dangers of falling while standing on the top rung of the ladder and the need to ensure that the ladder is positioned on stable ground before use. In addition, other outreach activities will be rolled out in the second half of 2012.
Strengthening WAH capabilities across all levels
- More will also be done to strengthen WAH capabilities for both management and workers. In this aspect, MOM and WSH Council will develop WAH Courses for all levels, including workers, supervisors, assessors and managers. The courses will ensure that managers and supervisors know how to plan and supervise WAH activities. Workers must also be adequately trained to manage WAH risks and are competent enough to perform their tasks, such as roofs works, in a safe manner. These courses will be piloted in the second half of 2012 and are expected to be rolled out early next year.
Exploring legal requirements to regulate WAH practices
- To bring about further improvements in the industry, MOM will explore the feasibility of enhancing the current WAH regulatory framework by introducing possible new legal requirements.
- Elaborating on this, Mr Hawazi Daipi, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Manpower, said, “MOM is currently exploring the introduction of a dedicated set of Work at Heights regulations, as we review our existing rules and look to streamline them while addressing areas that could be potentially strengthened. This includes mandating Fall Prevention Plans for all workplaces and extending the Permit-to-work system6, which already exists for Scaffold operations. MOM will be working closely with the WSH Council to engage industry stakeholders in the formulation of the Regulations for efficient and effective solutions, keeping in view industry practises and work environments. We plan to kick off public consultation on the Regulations in the second quarter of 2012.”
- “Besides the longer term regulatory enhancements, MOM will continue to crack down on unsafe work at heights practices through stepped up inspections on targeted workplaces. While we raise awareness and give time to industry to improve their safety measures, we must urge workplaces to immediately put a stop to obvious and dangerous working conditions that can harm workers. Enforcement, engagement as well as capability building efforts will have to work hand-in-hand to reduce work at heights risks,” added Mr Suresh Navaratnam, MOM's Director of Policy, Information and Corporate Services from the Occupational Safety and Health Division.
- Chairman of the National Work at Heights Taskforce Mr Wong Weng Sun said, “Falls from Heights is a matter of grave concern as workers can be killed or seriously injured. It can affect workers from all sectors, as we have seen from the 2011 cases. Hence, the Taskforce wants to re-energise and extend our efforts, going far beyond construction sites and shipyards. Industry must be made aware that poor management of work practices puts everything riding on the task – workers’ lives, productivity and reputation – at risk. Stakeholders must immediately take proactive actions and put preventative measures in place to prevent fatal falls at work.”
- Relevant stakeholders who wish to find out more on the ProBE programme and the latest WAH initiatives can visit the WSH Council website at www.wshc.sg.
1ProBE Plus is a programme by MOM and WSHC to address major causes of work fatalities and injuries. It kickstarts with extensive engagement and education efforts to help companies improve management of specific areas and follows through with inspections and checks on compliance levels.
2Five workers fell from roofs, a more than two-fold increase from two such fatalities in the previous year (2010). Similarly in 2011, four workers lost their lives from fatal falls related to work on ladders.
3Please refer to the WSH Council website for the Guide on Working Safely on Roofs.
4The Safety Compliance Assistance Visit (SCAV) is a new, innovative capability building and intervention tool initiated by the National WAH Taskforce since Mar 2010. It involves safety professionals who will visit smaller workplaces across the island to reach out, engage and educate industry players on WAH issues
5Please refer to the WSH Council website for the Ladder Safety Pack.
6The ‘permit-to-work’ system provides a systematic framework to ensure that hazardous work is allowed to commence only after the work environment and condition have been assessed by competent persons to be safe and approved by the project manager, who would have knowledge and overall control of the worksite.