The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Workplace Safety and Health Council (WSHC) have formed a National Work at Height (WAH) Safety Taskforce in August this year to address the concern of falls from heights (FFH) at workplaces. The Taskforce is led by Mr Wong Weng Sun, President and CEO, Sembcorp Marine Ltd, with members from various stakeholder groups, including the government, industry and suppliers. Today, the Taskforce unveiled a three-pronged plan to improve the safety of work conducted at heights across workplaces. Please refer to Annex A for the composition and terms of reference of the Taskforce.
2. In the last decade, fatal falls at work contributed to the highest number of workplace fatalities in Singapore. Various measures have helped to reduce the number of fatal falls at work by almost 60%, from 44 a decade ago to 19 in 2008, (Annex B - Figure 1). The new National Taskforce will take on a more concerted effort to involve all stakeholders, so as to bring the numbers down further.
Targets set by National Taskforce
3. The Taskforce has outlined several targets that it aims to achieve. These include:
• Halving current WAH fatality and injury rates by 2013 and further reduction by 2018;
• Implementation of Fall Protection Plans in all construction worksites and shipyards by 2012 and at all workplaces by 2015.
Safety Analysis and Recommendation Report on Work at Height
4. As a start, the National WAH Safety Taskforce has worked with the WSHC and the MOM to analyse the contributing factors for 126 Work at Height (WAH) incidents1 over the years. The findings are published in a Safety Analysis and Recommendation Report on Work at Height2.
Contributing factors highlighted in Report
5. The Report highlighted seven contributing factors to WAH incidents and proposed action to address the issues surrounding these factors. These include the lack of safe work procedures, and inadequate fall prevention or protection systems. Please refer to page 12 of Annex B for the summary table
Recommendations by the Taskforce
6. The National WAH Safety Taskforce has made three key recommendations to address the above contributing factors linked to workers falling from height or into depth.
Recommendation 1 - Building strong capabilities
7. Contributing factors such as the lack of safe work procedures show that stakeholders involved in WAH tasks were not well equipped to direct or perform the work safely. To raise capabilities, the Taskforce recommends the following:
a. Implement Fall Protection Plan - To manage WAH at a systemic level, companies should implement a Fall Protection Plan (FPP) that will ensure that all reasonable fall protection measures and procedures are taken prior to the commencement of the work. As part of the FPP, An important part of the Taskforce's work will be to look into new technologies or work methods that can eliminate the risks of work carried out at height from the design and planning phase.
b. Provide Practical Assistance - The Taskforce and the WSH Council have introduced a new Code of Practice (CP) for Working Safely at Height. The CP requires the establishment and implementation of the Fall Protection Plan for all works conducted at heights or where workers may fall from a height or into depths. A new WAH Kit with educational materials for supervisors and workers has also been launched.
c. Develop national Competency - The Taskforce is working on a national WAH competency standards. Meanwhile, stakeholders are advised to tap on existing training providers or provide in-house training to their supervisors and workers.
Recommendation 2: Promoting the benefits of WAH safety
8. The Taskforce emphasised the need to get all stakeholders to recognise the importance of adopting good WAH practices. This is done by highlighting the consequences of failure to ensure WAH safety as well as recognising stakeholders who demonstrate good WAH practices.
a. Outreach and Education - The Taskforce will collaborate with relevant industry associations and partners to reach and engage a wider audience (ranging from large organisations to SMEs, from management to workers).
b. Certification and Recognition – The Taskforce will develop a new FALLPROTECT Certification/Recognition Scheme. The proposed Scheme aims to certify or recognise the Fall Protection Plan of companies and for their commitment to safety.
c. Information Dissemination and Hazards Communication – A new dedicated WAH information webpage will be developed by the WSH Council to provide a one-stop info hub, solutions and other resources on WAH.
Recommendation 3: Enhancing the Intervention Framework for WAH
9. The Taskforce also recommends the need to establish and maintain an effective regulatory framework for better WAH standards.
a. Strategic Intervention - WAH will continue to be featured as a priority area for programmes such as ProBE. The Taskforce will work with various industry associations to introduce an “industry self-assessment” element.
b. Legislation Review and Extending Enforcement Reach – The Taskforce will provide feedback to MOM's review of existing legislation on WAH safety. MOM will also be looking into ways to extend enforcement reach to more workplaces, especially the smaller ones.
10. Chairman of the National Work at Height Safety Taskforce Mr Wong Weng Sun summed up his Taskforce's work, “In the last few months, the Taskforce has been working hard with the WSH Council to develop quick wins such as the Code of Practice on Working Safely at Height and the Work at Height kit. We urge industry stakeholders to tap on these materials to start developing and putting in place proper Fall Protection Plans. Beyond this, the Taskforce will be working on longer-term solutions to provide a sustainable approach to WAH issues. This will include developing the national competency framework for WAH training.”
11. Taskforce member and Director of Policy, Information and Corporate Services Department of MOM's Occupational Safety and Health Division, Mr Suresh Navaratnam, added, ”The Ministry is encouraged by the proposed plans and commitment of industry stakeholders in the Taskforce. The goal of implementing the Fall Protection Plans in all workplaces by 2015 will contribute significantly to reducing Work at Height risks. MOM will complement these efforts with enhanced enforcement efforts on two fronts. We will review our existing legislation as well as reach out to more companies, especially smaller set-ups, through our inspections.”
About the Ministry of Manpower
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) aspires to develop a globally competitive workforce and a great workplace, for a cohesive society and a secure economic future for all Singaporeans. Please visit the MOM website for more information.
About the Workplace Safety and Health Council
The Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council was established on 1 April 2008. It comprises 16 leaders from the major industry sectors (including construction, manufacturing, petrol-chemical and logistics), the Government, unions and professionals from legal, insurance and academic fields.
The Council works closely with both government and industry stakeholders to raise WSH standards in Singapore to realise the national vision to create safe and healthy workplaces for everyone. These include the Ministry of Manpower, other Government agencies, industry, unions and professional associations. The Council's main functions are to build capabilities to manage WSH, promote WSH, recognize companies with good WSH records and set acceptable WSH practices. More about the WSH Council can be found on the WSH Council's website.
The analysis is based on MOM's investigation reports of 126 WAH incidents between 2003 to 2006. Please refer to Annex B for the Work at Height Safety Analysis and Recommendation Report.
Composition of National Work at Height Safety Taskforce
Mr Wong Weng Sun
President and CEO
Sembcorp Marine Ltd
Mr Jonathan Wan
Access and Scaffold Association (ASIA)
Mr Reggie Lim
Country Environment, Health and Safety Manager
Bovis Lend Lease
Mr Simon Low
PRESCO Scaffolding & Services Pte Ltd
Mr Howard How
Singapore Contractors Association Ltd (SCAL)
Mr Ronnie Tan
QMT Industrial and Safety Pte Ltd
Mr Suresh Navaratnam
Director, Policy, Information and Corporate Services, Occupational Safety and Health Division
Mr Sarjit Singh
Senior Assistant Director, Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate
Terms of reference
The terms of reference of the Taskforce are to:
• Provide industry leadership and work with the WSH Council to make recommendations to improve the safety of WAH operations;
• Provide industry inputs when developing the implementation plan for the recommendations; and
• Garner buy-in and support from industry for effective implementation of the recommendations to reduce work at height fatality and injury rates (such as implementation of Fall Protection Plan at all workplaces)