Workplace Safety and Health Management Practice in Singapore’s Construction Industry

Write a Research Paper on Singapore WSH (Workplace Safety and Health).

Workplace Safety and Health Management Practice in Singapore’s Construction Industry



  1. Introduction…………………………………………………………………………………………4
    1.1 Introduction to Study……………………………………………………………………4
    1.2 Overview of Study……………………………………………………………………….4
    1.3 Objectives of Study……………………………………………………………………..4
    1.4 Methodology of Study…………………………………………………………………..5
  2. Literature Review…………………………………………………………………………………..6
    2.1 Factors Affecting Safety Performance on Construction Sites………………………6
    2.2 Management practices and OSH implementation in SMES in Singapore………..7
    2.3 On the difficulty of promoting worker’s safety behavior: overcoming the
    underweighting of routine risk………………………………………………………….9
    2.4 Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Assessment in the construction
    2.5 Impact of Job Hazard Analysis on Organizational Performance in Shell Bonny
    Terminal Integrated Project…………………………………………………………..10
    2.6 Behavior-Based Safety and Occupational Risk Management……………………11
    2.7 Working near the edge: A new approach to construction safety…………………12
    2.8 Safety Management Practices in the Bhutanese Construction Industry…………12
    2.9 Summary of literature review…………………………………………………………13
    2.9.1 What has been identified as lacking in Singapore construction industry in
    terms of workplace safety and health management…………………………
  3. Research Plan / Case Studies………………………………………………………………….15
  4. Summary……………………………………………………………………………………………24
  5. References…………………………………………………………………………………………26
  6. Appendices………………………………………………………………………………………..28

Singapore’s Construction Industry WSH


We would like to express our gratitude to Mr. John Garimort, our project supervisor, for his
invaluable guidance in this project. We also like to extend out thanks to our other lectures who
taught us in other modules.

Singapore’s Construction Industry WSH


Chapter 1: Introduction
1.1 Introduction to Study
Occupational safety and health (OSH) concerns the protection of the safety, health and welfare
of people engaged in employment or work. The goals of programs of workplace or occupational
safety and health management practice include fostering a work environment that is safe and
healthy. OSH also often involves protection of co-workers, employers, and customers who are
likely to be affected by the environment of the workplace. Therefore, occupational safety and
health can be of crucial significance for financial, legal, and moral reasons. This implies that all
organizations have a duty of ensuring that employees and any other person who may be
affected by the undertakings of the companies remain safe at all times. However, the moral
obligations of workplace safety and health would involve the protection of the lives and health of
employees. Moreover, legal reasons for OSH practices are in relation to the punitive,
preventative, and compensatory effects of laws that are involved in the protection of the safety
and health of workers. This implies that OSH if appropriately implemented has the potential of
reducing employees’ workplace illness and injury related costs, including sick leave, medical
care as well as disability benefit costs.
As a result of the significance of OSH to all employment sectors in Singapore including the
construction industry, this introduction to study section provides the basis of motivation towards
the selected research topic including a brief discussion of the background of construction
industry OSH in Singapore. The definition of research problem and the purpose of the study are
also presented followed by the methodology of research.
1.2 Objectives of Study
This study will enable an explicit understanding concerning construction safety, as well as the
importance of giving OSH the first priority in construction sites rather than budget, time and
quality. This means that the main aim of this study is to find out what workplace safety and
health elements the construction industry in Singapore is lacking. Therefore, the objectives of
this study are:
To analyze different work cultures in order to understand different perspectives of individuals,
corporate and government on workplace safety and health management practice in Singapore.
To find out the influences of monetary concerns companies have on safety implementation and
what can be done to incentivize them to put more focus on safety.
This implies that we will use examples from other countries i.e. case studies as a benchmark to
determine whether they are applicable in Singapore context.
1.3 Methodology of Study
In this study, we will use behavior based observation.

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This project study started off with an initial literature review on workplace/occupational safety
and health on the underlying causes of accidents/incidents. The identified safety factors are the
key factors in workplace safety and health management practice of which, whereby failure of
one may compromise successful workplace safety and health management practice. Literature
review was carried out with the purpose of identifying the best practices of workplace safety and
health management in construction projects.
However, despite the fact that most of the sources reviewed in the literature review were written
for an overseas audience in various countries. The opportunity arose for this project group to
investigate into some area of work which has not been covered (as far as we know) on the
impact of construction sites’ workplace safety and health in Singapore.
1.4 Definition of Safety
Although the output of the construction industry in Singapore remains relatively low in
comparison to developed countries, there is a significantly high magnitude of the accident rate
in Singapore’s construction industry (Chau and Goh, 2004), compared to developed countries
such as the UK (Sacks et al., 2009), the USA (Chau et al., 2004) and Hong Kong (Siu et al.,
2004). Amarasinghe (2011) reports that there many accidents in the construction sites annually
where a considerable number of the occurring accidents are fatal.
This implies that construction industry is one sector of economy where significant workplace
accidents occur, incurring a considerable number of occupational fatalities compared to other
sectors. Occupational safety and health is important for moral, legal and financial reasons. All
organizations have a duty of care to ensure that employees remain safe at all times.
Ideally, a workplace should be free from danger, risk or injury to workers and all other persons
involved. This means that adequate preventive measures should be put in place to ensure that
all employees are protected from workplace accidents.

Singapore’s Construction Industry WSH

Chapter 2: Literature Review

2.1 Factors Affecting Safety Performance on Construction Sites
Workplace safety and health issues have for a long period of time being a major concern and
problem in the construction industry. However, efforts have been made in the attempts of
addressing this problem, but the progress has been a distant from satisfactory since accidents
in construction sites continue to dominate. This is due to the fact that accidents in construction
sites continue at rates that are alarmingly high despite the workplace safety and health
programs that government authorities have continued to implement at the national level as well
as measures that the company themselves have introduced. This is a clear indication that these
efforts are insufficient to effectively curb unsafe acts’ occurrence on construction sites.
Therefore, many studies that have been conducted on this issue (such as Vredenburgh, 2002;
Siu et al., 2004; Teo et al., 2005) have evidently shown that improvements in safety at
construction sites is only achievable if there is a change in the behaviors of workers and there is
implementation of incentive schemes for their motivation.
Whether workplace safety and health can be achieved in construction sites or not, is
significantly dependent on various factors that are linked to the level of site which is the safety
impact of historical, economical, psychological, technical, procedural, organizational and
environmental issues (Vredenburgh, 2002; Siu et al., 2004). For instance, in Singapore, there
has been steady increase in the number of accidents occurring annually in the construction
industry. For example, in 1995 the number of reported cases was 887 while in 2004 this number
had increased to 1,216 cases which represent an increase of 37 per cent over nine years
coupled with an increase in cases of disablements that are temporary (Teo et al., 2005).
However, according to Ministry of Manpower in Singapore (2005) the types of accidents
accounting for the casualties in construction sites workplaces are: struck against or by objects;
accident by operation of tools/machinery; electrocution; failure of temporary structures;
excavation-related accidents; fire/explosion; falling from height; as well as being caught in and
between objects.
As seen from the statistics presented above, it is clearly evident that human error in work has
been attributed to the increase in the number of accidents in construction sites (Teo et al.,
2005). Moreover, Teo et al. (2005) also argue that lack of awareness and negligence in
workplace safety and health are the other factors that would continue to increase the chances of
human-related accidents in construction sites. This is attributable to the fact that most of the
accidents occurring in construction sites are due to falling planks, boards, hazards and decking
not properly secured, poorly maintained electrical appliances and equipment as well as unsafe
electrical installations. A significant number of these accidents can de avoided, and the
accidents mostly occur because workers dispose or place materials negligently. Therefore, a
major challenge is faced in determining measures that should be prioritized towards fostering
safe and healthy work behaviors among workers employed at construction sites. Many other
studies concur with these assertions on factors affecting safety performance in construction
sites including (Sawacha et al., 1999; Vredenburgh, 2002; Siu et al., 2004; Razuri et al., 2007;
Viscusi, 2008). On the other hand, Saurin et al. (2008) in their study to analyze best practices in
construction projects safety from the perspective of a cognitive systems engineering claim that
the above discussed factors are not significantly important in affecting safety performance in
construction sites, but design factors where an inappropriately designed construction site may

Singapore’s Construction Industry WSH


cause more workplace accidents compared to a construction site which has been designed
appropriately in accordance to all the required specifications.
Furthermore, this literature review reveals that there are various factors or measures that can
motivate workers to work safely. This can be discussed on the basis of the Operant
Conditioning Theory which states that the process of people learning to perform certain
behaviors leading to desired consequences while at the same time learning not to be performing
behaviors leading to consequences that are undesired (O’Donohue and Ferguson, 2001).
According to Dragoi and Staddon (1999) since this theory was developed, it has been
extensively adopted as a predictor of human behaviors through association of specific behaviors
performance to the achievement of specific outcomes. Thus, it is possible for organizational
members to be motivated by the managers towards performing their activities in ways that can
enable the company attain its goals.
Weiss (1990) developed four tools on the basis of Operant Conditioning Theory that can be
used by managers in affecting safety performance in construction sites, especially through
motivating of high performance and preventing workers to engage in workplace behaviors with
potential to hinder organizational effectiveness. Positive reinforcement, punishment, extinction,
and negative reinforcement are the tools that were developed (Weiss, 1990). For example,
positive reinforcement gives positive outcome (positive reinforcers) they are interested in when
they perform behaviors that are organizationally functional. This theory reiterates that
motivation of safe work performance by workers in construction sites, incentives in terms of
bonuses, job promotions and monetary rewards should be offered by contractors (Weiss, 1990).
However, in negative reinforcement, the aim is to remove or eliminate negative reinforcers
(undesired outcomes) upon the performance of the functional behavior. This involves motivating
safe performance of work through threatening or criticizing of the workers until they are able to
work in a safe manner when the undesired outcomes are stopped (Weiss, 1990). Moreover,
extinction curtails dysfunctional behaviors performance through elimination of their reinforcers,
enhancers or motivators (Weiss, 1990). Furthermore, punishment is another factor that affects
safety performance in construction sites and it involves administering a negative or an
undesired consequence upon occurrence of a dysfunctional behavior which encourage unsafe
environment in construction sites. Punishments with regards to workplace safety can include
demotions, temporary suspensions, pay cuts, and firing (O’Donohue and Ferguson, 2001).
From the literature review presented in this section, it is clearly evident that factors discussed in
the Operant Conditioning Theory (Weiss, 1990) have a significant potential to affect safety
performance in construction sites by fostering safe work behavior. This implies that safety
performance in construction sites can be affected by various factors most of which occur as a
result of human error and negligence. However, safe work behaviors can be fostered through
positive reinforcement, as well as punishments, extinction and negative reinforcement which
discourage, remove or eliminate unsafe work behaviors (Dragoi and Staddon, 1999).

2.2 Management practices and OSH implementation in SMES in Malaysia
In general, all employees and employers have the same OHS obligations and rights, but the
provisions of Malaysian’s OSH laws regarding prevention programs and joint safety and health
committees usually apply differently to SMES compared to large companies. Therefore, Surienty
(2012) study presented in this article focuses on SME enterprises particularly covering the
financial capability for implementation/maintaining of safety management in the company. This

Singapore’s Construction Industry WSH


occurs because Surienty (2012) states that structure and/or size of the company plays a
substantive role in an effective OSH program. In addition, legislation is also another crucial
factor that governs the implementation of safety programs. However, the article praises
Singapore for its low number of workplace accidents/incidents mainly because of the strict
enforcement by the local authorities meaning effective legislation was the main focus of this
study which recommends the necessity for enforced safety standards in the country (Surienty,
Christian et al. (2009) claim that there are many challenges that continue to be faced by SMEs
in Malaysia both traditionally and new ones. These challenges include high occupational
accidents rate which is a bad reflection of the workers’ safety and well being. However, it has
also been shown that reduction of accidents at workplace can be attained if the employer and
employees have good safety behavior or are more sensitive (Christian et. al., 2009). In addition,
effective implementation of OSH will assist in the formation of good safety behavior since the
implementation of OSH requires employer to take care of employees’ safety needs, whereas the
employees are given the responsibility of own safety. Surienty (2012) notes that workplace
accidents involve monetary costs because of the compensations paid out by companies to
employees involved in the accidents/incidents that take place at workplace. This compensation
amount has been increasing over the last decade because the number of workplace accidents
has continued to increase translating to an increase in monetary value to be paid to the victims
(Christian et. al., 2009).
However, an effectively implemented of OSH practices in SMES irrespective of the involved
sector of economy could reduce workplace accidents/incidents thus reducing compensation
paid (Surienty, 2012). However, a study conducted by Christian et al. (2009) has found that the
workplace safety measures are likely to lead to better safety performance. In addition, Surienty
(2012) emphasized that safety in workplace should be given the first priority because it
improves job performance. This implies that in order for SMES to generate high profits through
reduction of costs incurred to pay out to workplace accidents/incidents compensation, meaning
it is important for them to give OSH the necessary importance (Christian et. al., 2009).
Therefore, a reduction of health risk and safety problems in the work environment leads to
improved competitiveness of the concerned company in the market eventually leading to
increased productivity and profitability (Cooper, 2006).
Furthermore, WSH in Malaysia is the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH)
responsibility, which is an agency under the Ministry of Human Resources. However, OSH is
usually implemented and improved through the training courses, research and seminars
provided by DOSH in the attempts of improving companies’ OSH implementation through
provision of a safe working environment and training by the employer, as well as ensuring that
emergency preparedness measures are put in place (Surienty, 2012). Moreover, the
differences between SMEs and MNCs are very diverse and always lead to a significant impact
when it comes to OSH implementation thereby raising several issues. For instance, when it
comes to OSH implementation, the effectiveness of the process is highly dependent on the size
of the company (Cooper, 2006). For example, when OSH are considered for SMEs , the
process is often perceived as irrelevant mainly because they lack a huge workforce and it is not
possible to directly translate OSH implementation into monetary gain for the company meaning
the process is not very important for the company’s survival (Surienty, 2012).

Singapore’s Construction Industry WSH


2.3 On the difficulty of promoting worker’s safety behavior: overcoming the
underweighting of routine risk
Considering that there are numerous unsafe behaviors displayed in many routine workplaces by
the workers that are sustained by behavioral biases whose effects are probably cumulative, it is
clearly evident that safe behavior promotion must overcome the identified biases through
modification of the perceived value function for safe behavior (including self-assigned weight).
Zohar and Erev (2007) in their analysis suggest that there should be introduction of short-term,
frequent, and rewards that are personally meaningful meaning they are outweighing the
perceived costs. However, the primary safety-intervention strategy that is capable of meeting
the criteria of undertaking the rewarding behaviors is known as “behavior-based safety” or
“behavioral safety” (Geller, 1996).
However, the study by Zohar and Erev (2007) seeks to provide an explanation to the seeming
paradox whereby the safety behavior of workers during routine work is greatly dependent on
supervisory contingencies (including rewards and pressures), instead of self-preservation
(Geller, 1996). Moreover, three behavioral tendencies are usually identified that are attributable
for underweighting of outcomes that are related with safe behavior, such as delayed outcomes,
uncertain or rare outcomes, and outcomes that regard to social externalities. A combination of
all these factors leads to a tendency favoring unsafe behavior in diverse workplaces.
Examination of ineffective and effective intervention programs is suggestive that in order to
succeed, someone should that provide personally meaningful, frequent, and immediate rewards
for conducting themselves safely at workplaces, which overrides the costs linked with that
behavior eventually exceeding the benefits of unsafe workplace behavior. Zohar and Erev
(2007) notes that the identification of the causes of individuals’ unsafe actions is a behavior
based study that eventually shows that personal perspective toward workplace safety and
health is very crucial. However, BBSO course is usually offered in Singapore as a way of,
inculcating safety into individuals through workplace safety training in order to improve
effectiveness and safety (Zohar and Erev, 2007).
Moreover, there are various researchers who concur with the findings of (Zohar and Erev, 2007)
such as (Sawacha et al., 1999; O’Donohue and Ferguson, 2001; Hughes and Ferrett, 2007).
However, Cooper (2006) differs with this opinion implying that the underweighting of routine risk
should not always be overcome through adhering to safety behaviors alone, but also it should
include other aspects of occupational safety and behavior such as the surrounding environment.
2.4 Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Assessment in the construction
The significance of the construction industry to the Nigerian government in the national
development can’t be overemphasized with regards to the fact that about 50 per cent of the
investments in a variety of development plans involve construction in one way or another.
Therefore, OHS in construction sites concerns protection of people from being injured at work or
from falling ill as a result of making sure appropriate precautions are implemented. Despite the

Singapore’s Construction Industry WSH


fact that this study was carried out in Nigeria, the necessity for a safe, healthy and productive
workforce cannot be overlooked in order to attain the objective of economic growth and national
development because construction industry is a national economy stimulator. However, each
economy sector constituting a particular industry has its distinct risks and hazards that are
determined by its labor process peculiarities. Thus, according to Okeola (2009) a brief
presentation of the background to the construction industry in Nigeria followed by the concept of
addressing risk and hazard at a construction site workplace as cornerstone of effective OHS
management, especially by highlighting the laws that regulate OHS matters.

However, Okeola (2009) also examines the University of Ilorin construction sites’ state of OHS
practices as a case study with an aim of investigating current practices of safety on site;
identification of the occurrence and nature of hazards; and the degree of employing safety
measures. The findings obtained from this study show that there is increased vulnerability of
workers because of lack of appropriate strategies as well as the ease of OHS requirement
violations by contractors due to nonexistent or weak enforcement. Moreover, this article
considers are Nigerian based study through which safety practices are identified and enforced.
Okeola (2009) recommends that changes to standard contracts agreement in order to include
WSH/OSH elements are essential for improved safety performance. However, in Singapore
such contracts are emerging, but it is not a mandatory. The most appropriate recommendation
is that, safety elements should also be included into progress/performance payment system in
order to make sure that there is a great enforcement of the responsibility of companies
contracted for or engaged in the construction work (Okeola, 2009).
2.5 Impact of Job Hazard Analysis on Organisational Performance in Shell
Bonny Terminal Integrated Project
The need to automate and modernize the facilities that exist at the Shell Petroleum
Development Company (SPDC) Bonny gas and oil terminal made it necessary to award and
execute the Bonny Terminal Integrated Project (BTIP). This is due to the fact that the project
consisted of rehabilitating the crude oil storage tanks that existed as well as constructing of new
ones, new gas turbines, emulsion treatment plant and booster pumps construction and
installation, construction of new office and residential buildings, and automation of the central
control system (Agwu, 2012). This project also included two new 48 inches pipelines for crude
export laying all the way up to the Crude Loading Platform (CLP) offshore.
However, despite the fact that during the project design there was incorporation of a health,
safety and Environment management system (HSE-MS) as well as in the documents of as per
the 1997 Nigeria’s Mineral Oils (Safety) regulations, there was a constant increase in the
number of construction incidents/accidents within a half a year of the beginning of BTIP in 2006.
These construction incidents/accidents provoked various questions regarding to the relationship
between activities in a construction site and job hazard analysis, a task that is usually conducted
prior to the construction work commencement. Thus, according to Agwu (2012) Job Hazard
Analysis on organizational performance significantly influences this research as well as forming
the research subject.

Singapore’s Construction Industry WSH


With regards to organizational performance, a job hazard analysis is an instrument used in a
structured review for the identification of the effects and hazards of jobs while at the same time
engaging in the determination of the required risks and controls level (Agwu, 2012). Therefore, a
job hazard analysis as this one that was did on BTIP is usually a documentary analysis covering
a number of task steps, typical threats, associated hazards, assessment of risk, as well as
recovery and control measures that are in relation to various construction activities. This
process usually involves a wide range of activities’ preparation and implementation that are
helpful in the identification of construction hazards, safety consciousness, work planning
promotion, and reduction of incidents/accidents and management of risk (Carter and Smith,
2005). Moreover, according to Agwu (2012) the relationship between hazards and tasks is very
crucial to both construction safety management as well as hazard and safety awareness
communication down to the people to whom the hazards are exposed. This attributable to the
fact that, just like in the BTIP identification of hazard is fundamental to safety in construction
projects from risk, legislative and statistical management perspectives (Hughes and Ferrett,
2007). Therefore, considering that construction projects are always faced with manpower, cost
and time constraints, prioritization of tasks in term of risks is highly essential in order to enable
focusing of limited site resources on those tasks where exposure of operatives is faced with the
greatest danger (Agwu, 2012).
As a result of this, this paper Agwu (2012) mainly attempts to show how the improvement of
management/employees safety practices can be used to enhance increased profitability,
productivity, and reduced accident/incident rate through Job hazard analysis. In addition, this
analysis also posits that, if a company pays more attention to job’s safety, it will the save money
from the incidents/accidents which will translate to better productivity, profitability, quality,
efficiency, as well as a good corporate image in overall (Agwu, 2012).
Moreover, Agwu (2012) posits that if construction companies in BTIP undertakes an
incorporation of job hazard analysis into their technology and machines investment
(sociotechnical investments) as a result of appropriate job related hazards identification,
assessment and control, an improvement in employees’/management obedience to rules and
regulations that govern workplace safety and health mainly because there will be creation of
awareness through management and training commitment. This implies that a better
performance of workers in safety will definitely lead to a reduction in number of
incidents/accidents at workplace, medical costs, legal costs, damages, as well as liabilities as a
result of reduced safety risks leading to creation of better opportunities for employees’
rehabilitation after injury (Agwu, 2012). Therefore, when a company performance in safety is
better, this will evidently lead to improved performance in terms of productivity, quality,
efficiency and profitability through motivation, training and ergonomy, eventually resulting to a
significant reduction in work processes disruption subsequently leading to fewer liabilities
(Hughes and Ferrett, 2007).
Thus, in the conclusion of Job Hazard Analysis on the performance of an organization in BTIP is
that Job Hazard Analysis incorporation at the construction activities’ task level will improve
safety practices of employees/management at work eventually leading to enhanced productivity,
profits and loss control (Agwu, 2012). Therefore, according to Agwu (2012) this BTIP Job
Hazard Analysis advocates for increased top employees/management commitment to Job
Hazard Analysis, intelligence sharing in a competitive manner on job hazard analysis at all
levels concerned with a construction site occupational safety and health. Furthermore, Job
Hazard Analysis of knowledge flow at the company’s high-level management as well as co-
operative resourcing for construction companies on Job Hazard Analysis involved in execution
of various arms of the same project that are different functions to improve and sustain best

Singapore’s Construction Industry WSH


practices in construction projects, especially those that are in the same location (O’Donohue
and Ferguson, 2001; Hughes and Ferrett, 2007).
2.6 Behavior-Based Safety and Occupational Risk Management
According to Geller (2005) behavior-based safety (BBS) has continued to prosper in
organizations for the last one decade across the world. The principles and procedures of BBS
provide objective evidence of how this approach is effective towards risk management and
injury prevention at workplaces. Therefore, the study presented in this article reviews the
behavior-based approach towards the management of occupational risk and preventing
workplace injuries (Geller, 2005). In addition, the author provides insights about a variety of
intervention strategies that a company can take to make adjustment to workers’ behaviors, and
how to get them to understand the importance of safety. There are also many other studies that
confirms that behavior-based safety (BBS) has been successful in enabling the adoption of
intervention strategies that target the behaviors of workers with the purpose of eliminating
workplace accidents or incidents (Sawacha et al., 1999; Vredenburgh, 2002; Siu et al., 2004;
Razuri et al., 2007; Viscusi, 2008). However, Surienty (2012) refutes these claims noting that
despite the fact that workplace accidents involve monetary costs because of the compensations
paid out by companies to employees involved in the accidents/incidents that take place at
workplace; workplace design plays a critical role in making sure that a safe working environment
is achieved.
Furthermore, Geller (2005) notes that the behavior-based approach of occupational risk
management and prevention of workplace injuries is very crucial in the process of eliminating
workplace accidents and injuries. Moreover, unlike the typical top-down control approach
towards safety in companies, behavior-based safety (BBS) provides procedures and tools that
can be used by workers in the process of taking personal control of occupational risks. In
addition, the author notes that he has been using the proposed strategies to teach BBS to line
workers and safety leaders (Geller, 2005).
2.7 Working near the edge: A new approach to construction safety
In this study (Howell et al., 1998) the accidents theory was applied using Hendrich Domino
theory. This theory was adopted because it brings about the management’s responsibility in
accidents. In addition, the theory expands over 5 causes including: behavior, system,
epidemiological, human factors, and decision models. These factors are briefly described
including their adaption of use (Howell et al., 1998). Moreover, the authors adopted a model
used as the presently available best practice in the industry developed towards a new safety
As a result of adopting new approaches to construction safety, there has been substantial
improvement in construction safety, but the trend of increasing improvement seemed to have
reached a plateau over the last three to five years. However, it is envisaged that further
improvement will continue as a result of spreading Best Safety Practice across the entire
construction industry, or as a result of breakthroughs transcending Best Practice (Howell et al.,

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1998). Therefore, the authors of this study were working on Breakthrough while at the same
time proposing the necessity of a new theory of accidents at construction sites (Howell et al.,
1998). In addition, this research also provides a description of the Current Best Practice along
with its underlying theoretical assumptions.

Howell et al. (1998) also note that lean advocates for the minimization of waste through a
process of continuous improvement. Furthermore, Howell et al. (1998) claim that incidents
leading to the disruption of the work flow or resulting to injury are waste, so it is evidently clear
that the relationship between safety and lean is clear. However, the authors of this study state
that any worker can stop the line instead of releasing a defective part downstream which
resonates here also. Therefore, this implies that, it is one thing focusing on the employee who
faces a hazard and another task is the work of requiring persons who completed the previous
work as a process of assuring other workers that such hazards cannot be left open prior to the
declaration of their completion thereby ushering the next group of workers (Howell et al., 1998).
Thus, it can be stated that undertaking a process of making more reliable work flow seems an
obvious way towards the reduction of the unexpected events that may eventually result to
incidents and injuries at construction sites.
2.8 Safety Management Practices in the Bhutanese Construction Industry
Dorji and Hadikusumo (2006) argue that the construction industry is one of the most hazardous
sectors in Bhutan. The development of OHS in the construction industry at Bhutan is relatively
poor mainly because legal enforcement and regulation are lacking in this area. This study
reveals the culture of safety in developing countries as well as the adaptation of the workforce in
these countries to such poor safety culture. This situation is then related to the local employed
Non-traditional Source foreigner workers (Dorji and Hadikusumo, 2006). Moreover, the local
workers compared to foreign workers are adapted to poor safety systems whereas the foreign
workers are adapted to the work environment back in their home country making it necessary to
emphasize on training as well as continual education which is of paramount importance towards
inculcating the safety culture among workers in Singapore.
However, it is commonly known that there are serious implications of workplace accidents to the
construction industry both in humanitarian and financial terms. This is mainly because
construction accidents are likely to cause many problems, such as disruption of site activities;
demotivation of workers; and delay of project progress leading to adverse effect on productivity,
the overall cost, and the construction industry reputation (Dorji and Hadikusumo, 2006). For
example, in Hong Kong, 8.5 per cent of the total tender price is accounted by the cost of
accidents (Dorji and Hadikusumo, 2006). Therefore, considering the adverse impacts of
workplace accidents at construction sites, there is a genuine concern on construction safety
management to all construction industry stakeholders. Unions, government and insurers have
spent a lot of effort and time in their attempts to evolve rules, legislation and regulations aimed
at helping in the reduction of the large loss of lives and injuries at construction sites through
appropriate workplace safety and health management practice (Dorji and Hadikusumo, 2006).

Singapore’s Construction Industry WSH


Dorji and Hadikusumo (2006) argue that the construction industry is a hazardous industrial
sector in many developing countries which lack strict legislation, rules and regulations.
However, in developed countries such as the United States of America and United Kingdom,
there is a considerably high safety at construction sites mainly due to strict legal enforcement of
the construction industry safety as well as the implementation of appropriate safety
management systems designed towards eliminating or minimizing accidents at work places.
However, in Bhutan which is a developing country, construction industry occupational safety is
very poor. Dorji and Hadikusumo (2006) investigate the safety management perceptions and
practices that are prevalent in the construction industry in Bhutan. Therefore, this study was
carried out among 14 government officials and 40 construction contractors and the results
revealed a multitude of problems in occupational safety in the construction industry in Bhutan
(Dorji and Hadikusumo, 2006). Dorji and Hadikusumo (2006) note that such problems include
lack of safety standards and regulations, lack of data on safety at construction sites, low priority
of safety, lack of competent manpower, lack of safety promotion, lack of safety training, and lack
of organized and documented safety management systems.

2.9 Summary of literature review

2.9.1 What we have identified as lacking in Singapore construction industry in
terms of safety management

  1. Training and continual education of NTS/ foreigner workers, we are task with labor work
    in construction industry.
  2. Adaption of local climate and culture of safety system in Singapore.
  3. New construction contracts did not emphasis on safety aspects, only to focus on
    progress/time, quality and monetary.
  4. BBSO courses are available but not much application through the industry, companies
    should modify contents to suit Singapore context.
  5. Regulation in the WSH Act, does not clearly states the scope and responsibilities.
    Should define even further. Example, provide sound material/structure.
  6. Stricter enforcement, based on item 6. Specific clearer roles and responsibilities of
    individual. Currently, WSH act specify everyone is responsible, down the line from
    management to worker. Not clear on the responsibility.

Singapore’s Construction Industry WSH

Chapter 3: Research Plan / Case Studies
3.1. Introduction
This chapter will discuss the research methodology and techniques used to conduct the
research and facilitate collection of the research data. After discussion of the research
methodology, several case studies will then be considered that cover on various issues
identified in the literature review that are concerned with workplace safety and health. However,
the a case study protocol will also be included in this chapter which highlights all the involved
stakeholders in the construction industry and the roles which each of them is supposed to play
in order to make sure that there is substantial improvement in workplace safety, especially at
construction sites.
Among the issues identified as lacking in Singapore construction industry in terms of safety
management include the lack of training and continual education on workplace safety among
the workers in the construction industry in Singapore; adaption of local culture and climate of
safety system in Singapore; new construction contracts didn’t put more emphasis on safety
aspects, but only focuses on time/progress, quality and monetary aspects; BBSO courses are
available but not widely applied in the industry; regulation in the WSH Act, doesn’t clearly states
the responsibilities and scope; and also the lack of stricter legal enforcement on legislations,
rules and regulations that govern the construction industry in Singapore.
3.2. Research methodology and techniques
A case study research designs was used to conduct this research. The decision to use this
method of research was to ensure that sufficient data concerning workplace safety and health in
Singapore, especially at the construction sites was collected through the case study research
design followed by adequate description of the issues of concern in order to establish their
relationships (Bryman and Bell, 2003). The case study was used as an empirical inquiry to
investigate the contemporary phenomenon of workplace safety and health in Singapore. This
research strategy comprised of an all-encompassing method that covered the logic of design as
well as techniques of data collection used (Gill and Johnson, 2010). The case study research
design included collection of research on various occupational safety and health cases as
evidence using multiple sources of secondary data (Neumann, 2000).
Case studies are usually performed for varied reasons and where in the most limited concept
sense, the case under study are sometimes of crucial interest, for example, when a case study
concerns an organization for the purpose of improving its functioning and productivity
(Neumann, 2000). However, upon application of a case study as a research method, a case
study is conducted to generate findings or results of relevance that are beyond the individual
cases (Bryman and Bell, 2003). Therefore, when a case study is adopted as a research method
it seems its appropriate for the investigation of a phenomenon when (1) there is no existence of
basic laws in determining which relationships and factors are important; (2) a large variety of
relationships and factors are included; and (3) when the relationships and factors can be
observed directly (Gill and Johnson, 2010).

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Case study will be the most appropriate research method to adopt in this research because it is
usually used to systemically develop a comprehensive model for the description of behavior
patterns (Neumann, 2000). This is mainly because case study method is a specific research
method for studying specific phenomenon due to the fact that these phenomena occur without
any considerable intervention from the researcher (Bryman and Bell, 2003). Therefore, a case
study refers to a detailed discussion, analysis or explanation of an individual case that is
supposed to provide information of the phenomenon through an intensive exploration of a
particular case. This implies that a case study is usually aim to attain a comprehensive
understanding of the case under study while at the same time developing theoretical statements
that are more general concerning the regularities in the phenomenon that is observed (Gill and
Johnson, 2010).
3.3. A case study protocol
When working at the construction sites, some accidents will occur/ happen that no one would be
in a position to predict and the occurrence of all this result is the cause of human and also the
working environment. This is due to the fact that an accident may occur or happen at anytime,
anyplace due to the no proper training are being conducted or provided. Due to this, it causes
an interruption/ to the entire projects schedule and work. However, it is essential to note that
everyone has the responsibility of making sure and focusing on the safety and health of the
place of work as well as making sure that it is free from accidents to be happening. Hence it was
important that why Workplace Safety and Health Act (WSHA) are being implemented.
3.3.1. Workers of different backgrounds
This involves workers from different regions whose issues must be sorted out considering that
they that they originate from a wide range of places which are attributed by a wide range of
climatic differences as well as well as the level of safety education. Moreover, the work culture
is also another condition that may determine the background of a particular person.
3.3.2. Education/Training
This process is varied because it involves persons who are untrained to use specific equipment
or perform specific task and there is no proper training that will lead to dangerous incident.
However, the Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) Specialist Diploma in Workplace Safety and
Health (WSH) which is often preferred by occupational safety and health personnel involved in
the WSH take part in WSQ which is a national Continuing Education and Training (CET)
framework jointly developed by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) and the
Ministry of Manpower (MOM), and the industry. The Specialist Diploma in WSH is one of the
four qualifications under the WSH Professionals WSQ. Moreover, this qualification is one of the
pre-requisites to be registered as a WSH Officer under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.
This is attributable to the fact that, this course aims to train personnel to be competent WSH
Officers under the WSH Qualifications framework. The competency-based course covers
comprehensively the planning, implementation, control and auditing of WSH systems.

Singapore’s Construction Industry WSH


This aims to professionalize the WSH workforce by incorporating the world’s best practices and
providing career upgrading pathways that are based on the competency requirements of
different job levels. Furthermore, there is also the WSQ specialist diploma in WSH whereby the
WSH professionals are involved in a national CET framework in order to make sure that their
skills and knowledge are up to date. However, the management team would have to conduct a
risk assessment prior to works commencement, and workers have to report to/inform their
supervisors before they start work. Moreover, there should be a daily toolbox meeting to be
conducted. Person supervising work should highlight the hazards that could occur, and
countermeasures to be taken. Workers briefed are supposed to sign on the daily toolbox
meeting form that they were briefed, and acknowledge the contents of the briefing.
3.3.3. Roles/Responsibility
This should be carried out because of a variety of reasons such as: due to poor assignment of
work task; no proper supervision lead to unsafe work, no due diligence; responsibility & roles
are overlook; and the management staff did not/no control over such work activities.
However, the main question concerns the fact that who has obligations to fulfill under the
Workplace Safety and Health Act? Whereby it is generally believed that, persons who have
responsibilities and duties under the Act who are listed below are should carry out various tasks.
Employer: Any person who employs another person to perform work under a contract of
Principal: Any person who engages another person or organization to supply labor or perform
work under some arrangement other than a contract of service.
Contractor: Any person engaged by another person or organization under a contract for
service for the supply labor or conduct of work at the workplace
Roles and Responsibilities: Risk management duties are imposed on every employer, self-
employed person and principal (including contractor and sub-contractor). These parties must
take all reasonably practicable measures to ensure that the workplace is safe to every person
within its premises.

However, the Employer should be able to do the following:

  1. Designate, assign, appoint or engage a competent person leading a team of personnel
    (including contractors) associated with the process or activity to conduct risk
  2. Ensure that the risk control measures are implemented without undue delay after the
    completion of risk assessment;
  3. Inform all persons working at the workplace of the risks, and the means to minimize or,
    where possible, eliminate the risks;
  4. Provide a risk assessment register to record the findings of risk assessment;

Singapore’s Construction Industry WSH


  1. Endorse and approve the risk assessments conducted;
  2. Keep risk assessment records for inspection for at least three years from the date of the
    assessment; and submit the records to the Commissioner for Workplace Safety and
    Health if the Commissioner so requires;
  3. Review and update the risk assessment at least once every three years or whenever
    there is a significant change in the work, or after an incident involving the work process;
  4. Ensure that all employees are aware of the risk assessment for the work activity they
    carry out;
  5. Develop and implement safe work procedures (SWPs) for work which poses safety or
    health risks to workers; and
  6. Keep a written description of SWPs and produce this to the inspector for inspection
    when requested.
    Moreover, the team leader is supposed to do the following:
  7. Have adequate knowledge of the risk assessment method;
  8. Recommend appropriate risk control measures to reduce or eliminate the risks identified;
  9. Prepare a record of the risk assessment for the employer after completion of the
    assessment; and
  10. Assist management in monitoring the effectiveness of risk control measures after their
    Furthermore, the employees are also expected to do the following:
  11. Participate in the risk assessment or assist in conducting the risk assessment;
  12. Adhere to SWPs established to reduce any safety and health risks in the workplace; and
  13. Inform their supervisors of any shortcomings in the SWPs or risk control measures.

Singapore’s Construction Industry WSH


Hierarchy of Control Measures



Engineering Controls

Administrative Controls

Personal Protective Equipment

Elimination Most Effective

Change design to eliminate
Substitution Use of less flammable

construction materials

Engineering Controls Design-in safe access for building


Administrative Controls Implement safe work procedure

for maintenance

Personal Protective Equipment

Least Effective Provision and correct use of safety
restraint, harness, and so on

WSH Hierarchy of Control Examples

This implies that the safe person is the one to who there is variation in perception of risks; safe
work procedures; supervision required; warning signs are there; and personal protective
equipment are available.
3.3.4. Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act
 Enacted since 1 Mar 2006
 The new framework aims to reduce our workplace fatality rate to less than 1.8 fatalities
per 100,000 employees by the Year 2018
 Everyone has an obligation to ensure workplace safety and health
Safe Design

Safe Worker

Singapore’s Construction Industry WSH


 With effect from 1 Sep 2011, all workplaces in Singapore are covered under the WSH
‘Management must show that they have taken active steps to implement proactive and sound
safety and health management systems, including proper risk assessments and incident
reporting systems, provide adequate resources, and ensure that full information is disseminated
to employees and other persons exposed to risks’ by Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minster of Manpower
(during the seconding reading of WSH Bill in Parliament on 17 Jan 2006)
3.3.5. Penalties under WSH Act
 For Individuals – Max fine $200,000 and/or 24 months’ jail
 For Corporations – Max fine $500,000
 For repeat offenders where a fatality occurs during a previous offence and a 2 nd fatality is
caused – Penalty is doubled
However, the sources of hazards include: work environment; plant & machinery work; practices
& system; dangerous goods; and material and manual handling.
Therefore, there are various causes of workplace hazards where the most common are:
 Slip, trip and fall hazard
 Fall from height
 Struck by falling object
 Struck against object
 Incorrect manual handling
 Exposure to excessive noise
 Poor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
 Incorrect office ergonomics
 Exposure to chemical
 Exposure to electrical energy
 Fire
 Fatigue
3.3.6. Safety makes good business sense
There is no conflict between workplace safety and health (WSH) and profitability. A safe and
healthy business is also a productive and profitable business. When accidents occur at
workplaces, workers and their families suffer as a consequence. The employers also suffer loss
of business and profitability. Workplace death, injuries, and illnesses are expensive for a
business. One serious workplace injury can greatly impact the bottom line of a business and its
Employers who implement an effective safety and health management system can expect to
reduce injuries and illnesses. The costs associated with these injuries and illnesses, including

Singapore’s Construction Industry WSH


workers compensation payments, medical expenses, and loss in productivity can be very much
The world’s best companies believe that investing in workplace safety and health makes good
business sense. It increases productivity, enhances the corporate image and makes a positive
statement about the values of the company. Good WSH standards contribute to a company’s
competitiveness. Consumers and companies are more likely to do business with companies that
practice good WSH. With more and more big corporations outsourcing their business, this is
particularly important for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that account for a large
proportion of the outsourced market.
Safety is everyone’s business, but the leader of a company is responsible to set the direction
under which safe practices are implemented, practiced, documented and improved on a
continuing basis. How committed are you to worker safety? Let’s ensure that every worker
under your care returns to his home and family, whole and unharmed.
3.3.7. The journey starts here
To start the bizSAFE journey, your company’s top management must sign up for a half-day
workshop conducted by bizSAFE service providers. Upon completion of the workshop, your
company will be granted bizSAFE Level 1.
Going on to level 2 and 3
For Level 2, your company must select a Risk Management (RM) Champion to attend a 2-day
RM Course. At the end of the course, the RM Champion must chart out the RM Implementation
Plan for your company. Your company will then be upgraded to bizSAFE Level 2. Level 3
requires your company to fully implement the RM Plan.
The journey continues
For Level 4, your company must select a Workshop Safety and Health Management System
(WSHMS) Program Lead to attend a 4-day WSHMS Course. With the acquired knowledge, the
WSHMS Program Lead must be able to develop a WSH Management Plan for your company.
Upon completion, your company will be upgraded to bizSAFE Level 4. To achieve bizSAFE
STAR, your company must engage an independent third party certification company to certify
that your WSHMS meets SS506 or any similar international standard.


Singapore’s Construction Industry WSH

Excellence in

Acquire Capability in Managing
WSH Systemically

Implement Risk Management

Acquire Risk Management Capability

Demonstrate Top Management Commitment

3.4. Case Studies
Case study 1: Floor Finishers, Lacquer Sealers, and Fires: Safer Product Alternatives Are
the Solution
In 2004, two 35-year-old Vietnamese immigrants, Toan Bui and Ha Vu, were refinishing
hardwood floors in a three-family house in Somerville, a city on Boston’s northern periphery.
This was not at all an unusual scene. The older cities of New England feature tens of thousands
of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century houses with fine old wood floors, which periodically
need to be refinished. From an environmental and health perspective, there’s a lot that’s good
about wood floors: they’re easy to keep clean, they’re comfortable and warm underfoot, and
when they eventually get scuffed and dirty, they can be sanded and refinished several times
before they need to be replaced. Floor finishing is heavy, noisy, and dusty work, but it also
requires attention to detail and a commitment to quality workmanship. In Massachusetts, the
industry is now dominated by Vietnamese immigrants. An estimated 80 percent of all floor
sanders/finishers in Boston are ethnic Vietnamese. In 2006, 127 of 144 registered Boston
hardwood floor contractors had Vietnamese workers, and there are undoubtedly many more
contractors who are not registered with the city. Toan Bui and Ha Vu were typical workers in a
typical trade—until 2004, when they died on the job in a fiery and entirely preventable disaster in

Singapore’s Construction Industry WSH


which two co-workers were also badly burned. They had finished sanding the old floors and
were coating them with a lacquer sealer that is typically 80 percent flammable solvent, with the
remainder a mixture of resins that serve to coat and protect the wood. The entire house caught
fire in a matter of seconds after the lacquer sealer was ignited by a pilot light in a gas stove.
Case study 2: Injuries Are Not Accidents: Construction Will Be Safe When It’s Designed
to Be Safe
On August 13, 2005, a 56-year-old male construction worker was fatally injured when he was
run over by a bulldozer. He had been working at a commercial construction site in North
Carolina. As he stepped in front of a gravel pile to direct a truck driver, he was struck by a
bulldozer running in reverse. His boss, the owner of the contracting company, was operating the
bulldozer, spreading gravel. The dozer’s back-up alarm was on. A co-worker in a skid-steer
loader near the gravel pile saw the bulldozer backing toward the victim, and he yelled a warning.
But neither the driver of the bulldozer nor the worker in its path heard him shout. The track of
the bulldozer struck the victim on the back of his legs and rolled over his legs and torso.
Emergency medical workers arrived promptly after the 911 call and found that the victim had no
signs of life. He was pronounced dead at the site.
Case study 3: The Channel Tunnel Rail Link Project
This case study concerns the study of worker engagement at the Channel Tunnel Rail Link
Project. This case study is an example of those that show adoption of best practices when
engaging workers in order to improve safety and health in the workplace. For instance, this case
study concerns the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) Project in Britain which was the first major
railway project to be undertaken by the government. The project is very enormous whereby the
construction phase may take a span of a decade to make sure it is effectively completed.
However, such a large poses a multitude of occupational safety and health problems mainly
because such a large project presents many risks including vehicle movement, working at
height, confined spaces, lifting operations as well as all the risks concerning operating around
and on a live railway.
However, this project involved the leadership as well as the top-level management of the project
in the workplace safety. This was to make sure that all the decisions made on safety issues at
workplace emanates from the managers of the project. Moreover, the project also adopted a
people based safety strategy in order to make sure that no workplace incident or accident was
reported. The people based safety refers to the workplace safety programs that involves each
worker maintaining surveillance on their fellow workers in order to make sure that they all
maintain safe activities at workplaces. As a result of the implemented occupational safety and
health management practices, this project managed to report zero incidents or accidents so far
resulting to zero casualties so far. Thus, if so far such a mega can fail to report any incident or
accident, it means that if all; workplaces are appropriately managed in terms of safety and
health the number of workplace incidents or accidents that lead to deaths and injuries could be
significantly reduced.

Singapore’s Construction Industry WSH


Chapter 4: Summary
Employers/Companies should enforce safety, provide a safety working environment and also
have the responsibility of identifying safety and health hazards in the workplace before/which
work is being carried out.
They also need to ensure the workplace is safe for work by taking necessary actions/measures
by implementing risk management system providing and ensuring safe work procedures and
conducting risk assessment for work to be carried out. The purpose of having risk assessment
and risk management is to reduce the likelihood of accidents/incidents happening and the
severity of damages/loss in personnel or property, it should be carried out in the routine and
non-routine work.
Overall, safety is the most important issue and also the top priority in all projects and it also
everyone’s responsibility and needs to play a part.

Singapore’s Construction Industry WSH


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