More inspections, stiffer penalties after four deaths at HDB work sites this year

SINGAPORE – The Housing Board, which is Singapore’s largest housing developer, has imposed harsher punishments for safety lapses through a stricter demerit points system that took effect from July 1, The Straits Times has learnt.

This comes after four fatal accidents at HDB work sites since the start of this year.

There were also two dangerous occurrences – incidents that could cause serious injury and death, but where no one was hurt – according to a circular issued in June by Mr Goh Keng Cheong, deputy director of HDB’s construction safety management section.

The number of workplace injuries at HDB sites has also risen and now exceeds pre-Covid-19 levels, said Mr Goh, who flagged unsatisfactory safety provisions and housekeeping at some work sites.

Some contractors continue to have the same types of safety lapses despite repeated reminders, he added.

With the stricter demerit points system, the administrative charges levied by HDB on errant contractors have now been doubled.

Companies have to pay what is essentially a fine of $30,000 for accidents leading to death, or injury to the public, and $20,000 for serious incidents, such as those leading to amputation or permanent disability – up from $15,000 and $10,000 previously.

Under the stricter system, the number of demerit points given for serious incidents, as well as for critical non-compliances observed during safety audits, has also risen.

These critical non-compliances are safety lapses that could lead to imminent danger, or if more than 15 lapses are found during an audit.

Contractors incur between 10 and 100 demerit points depending on the severity of the workplace accident or the safety lapses found. If they accumulate 100 points, they will be barred from tendering for HDB projects for three months.

Work sites that perform poorly will also be subject to close monitoring for at least three months, with safety audits conducted monthly.

In a note to contractors and consultants on July 29, HDB deputy chief executive of building Johnny Wong said the stricter demerit points system is meant to ensure that all contractors take safety seriously.

“With the easing of the Covid-19 restrictions and reopening of the economy, we understand everyone is working hard to deliver projects on time,” he added.

“I would like to reiterate that HDB will not hesitate to take strong punitive actions against our contractors for any lapses found during our audit inspections,” he said.

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