06 March 2015

Operation Sunbird: 9 in 10 worksites inspected found to have safety lapses

06 March 2015

Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin (right) and a WSH Inspector checking a scaffold structure for safety lapses.
On 10 February 2015, Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin and WSH Inspectors from MOM’s Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate (OSHI) visited a worksite at Jalan Ampas. The Minister joined in for the last leg of a three week-long construction safety enforcement blitz, codenamed Operation Sunbird, intended to weed out poor Workplace Safety and Health practices at construction sites.

Over the course of the inspection, a worrying number of safety lapses were discovered – enough for OSHI to issue a Stop-Work Order on the spot.

Here are some of the most serious lapses OSHI discovered, and how the contractor could have rectified them.  

#1: Outriggers on each side of the lorry crane were not fully extended

Why this is a problem: The outriggers help to stabilize the lorry crane during lifting operations. If both are not fully extended, the lorry crane may topple and injure workers standing around it.

Action to take: When planning how lifting operations should be carried out, the contractor should ensure that the site selected for the lorry crane can accommodate its fully extended outriggers. Lifting gear should be well maintained and loads should be properly rigged prior to carrying out any lifting operation.

 #2: Poor housekeeping 

Why this is a problem: The construction materials cluttering the passageway in the first photo increase the risk of slips, trips and falls for workers who pass through the area. These may also obstruct escape routes in the event of an emergency like a fire. The wooden beams and metal decking strewn around the area in the second photo also impede safe movement around the workplace. 

Action to take: Waste materials must be removed regularly, and construction supplies should be stored neatly in a suitable storage area. Passageways and work areas should be kept clear of debris.

#3: Tripping hazards

Can you identify the tripping hazards in each photo? 
Why this is a problem: The protruding metal decking (in the first photo) and the pole across the top of the steps (in the second photo) are dangerous as workers may trip over them. These also obstruct the movement of workers around the workplace.

Action to take: Contractors should ensure that there are no such tripping hazards around the workplace, especially at areas like staircases where the risk of injury is even greater.

#4: Faulty passenger hoist

Why this is a problem: The passenger hoist (the orange cage on the left) is faulty and the safety devices must be bypassed in order for it to operate. This is dangerous as safety devices are needed to ensure that the passenger hoist operates safely.  

Action to take: Contractors should ensure that the passenger hoists are maintained regularly, and that any faults are quickly rectified. 

#5: Poorly-lit stairwells 

Why this is a problem: Dark stairwells may be dangerous for workers to use as they may fall and injure themselves.

Action to take: Temporary lighting should be provided to ensure that the stairwells are well lit and safe for use. Alternative fire escape routes should also be identified and communicated to workers.

#6: Missing handrails  

Why this is a problem: Without handrails along the staircases, workers may trip and fall from the steps. The cluttered work area beside the staircase further increases the risk of injury should workers fall.

Action to take: Temporary handrails should be installed, and the work area should also be tidied up. 

#7: Unevenly spaced supporting beams on formwork structure

Why this is a problem: The supporting beams were part of the formwork structure (a mould for concrete) but were not evenly spaced or were missing in some locations, and hence they may not be able to support the weight of the concrete placed on them. This poses a risk of failure of the formwork structure.

Action to take: This particular formwork structure was designed by a professional engineer, and its design should have been adhered to. Frequent inspections by the formwork supervisor should also have been carried out. The formwork supervisor should only have allowed the concrete to be poured after the formwork structure had been inspected and certified by the professional engineer.

#8: Poorly installed barricades

Can you spot the Minister in this photo? J  
Why this is a problem: The barricades were shaky and did not provide effective protection from falls. This is especially dangerous because these barricades were on the 23rd floor of the building. The Minister had to approach the barricades carefully as the surrounding area was cluttered with wooden beams and other construction materials.

Action to take: Contractors must ensure that the barricades, especially those on the edge of the building, are properly designed and safely installed. 

#9: Open side  

Imagine what would happen to a worker who falls through the opening – a one-storey drop onto the hard bricks and planks below. A broken skull, traumatic brain injuries, and being impaled on a sharp object are all possible consequences ... 
Why this is a problem: Without the necessary barricades or warning signs, these openings in the floor are extremely dangerous as workers may fall through them. The poor housekeeping in the area also means that tools and construction materials may fall through the openings, striking workers on the floor below. 

Action to take: Adequate and secured covers must be installed to cover such openings to prevent falls, and proper warning signs should be installed to alert workers to the risk of falling through such an opening. Proper housekeeping should also be carried out.

In the first half of 2014 alone, 30 people were killed in workplace accidents. Of these, 9 died in falls, 4 were struck by moving objects, 3 were caught in or between objects, and 3 died in crane-related incidents. Sadly, many of these accidents arose due to safety lapses – much like the lapses discovered in this inspection – and many could have been prevented if the right preventive measures had been taken earlier.

MOM will continue to conduct regular inspections and enforcement operations throughout the year to check that workplace safety and health is maintained, especially in high-risk industries like the construction industry. However, contractors must also take responsibility for ensuring that workplaces are safe for their employees, and workers should also stay vigilant to protect themselves from possible risks.

For more detailed information on specific workplace injuries, do look out for the full-year Workplace Safety and Health statistics for 2014, which will be published on the Workplace Safety and Health Institute (WSHI)’s website by end-March 2015.

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