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'Ensure safety rules are observed' for work at height

Just having safety procedures and papers in the workplace is not enough to keep workers safe
The Straits Times - May 7, 2014
By: Joanna Seow
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'Ensure safety rules are observed' for work at height Workers using a pouch to minimise tripping hazards for taglines, which are needed to stabilise loads as they are lifted or lowered. At yesterday’s Work At Height Conference, speakers called on contractors and engineers to be vigilant in implementing saf

IT IS not enough to have safety procedures and papers in the workplace.

They are of little use if they are not carried out properly every time, representatives from the construction and manufacturing industries were told yesterday.

The key is implementation, said Access and Scaffold Industry Association president Jonathan Wan at the third annual Work At Height Conference.

Contractors and engineers also need to work more closely to analyse the risk scenarios for each job before planning the safety procedures to be used. "Wearing personal protective equipment doesn't make you safer (on its own). In fact, it may give you a false sense of security," said Mr Wan.

Falls from heights made up 14 out of the 17 fatal falls last year, with no improvement from 2012.

To address this ongoing problem, the work-at-height regulations were expanded on May 1 to cover all businesses.

Some of the requirements include avoiding work at height where possible and having fall prevention plans. Factory owners also have to secure permits-to-work, which certify that safety measures are in place, before work can start.

But sometimes, inadequate supervision or training of workers result in accidents, despite the documentation being in place.

"Obviously if any individual recognises the risk, he will not do it. But when workers take that risk often enough and nothing happens, they begin to assume the risk is not there," said Mr Lai Poon Piau, executive director of the Workplace Safety and Health Council, speaking at the conference at Singapore Expo.

The event was co-hosted by the Singapore Contractors Association.

Its president, Dr Ho Nyok Yong, said that the construction industry is grappling with a manpower shortage, tight completion schedules and rising operation costs.

"But it cannot be the excuse for the tragic start this year with 12 fatalities in the first three months," he said.

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