Smarter, safer digital solutions: How construction companies can prepare for Singapore’s new safety requirements

By Vitaly Berezka

An escalating emphasis on the safety of construction workers in Singapore has prompted the Singapore Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to launch a new series of measures to reduce workplace deaths and injuries, especially in high-risk sectors. 

The Singapore Government is the biggest developer in the country, and it is projected that the public sector will account for around 55% of construction demand in 2024. Given the government's significant role in the construction sector, prioritising safety measures will have a substantial impact.

Starting April 1, government agencies will prioritise safety when evaluating construction tenders. They will increase the minimum weighting assigned to safety-related criteria. 

According to the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), contractors who show plans to adopt safer construction methods or use technology to improve risk monitoring and safety may receive more favourable assessments. This extends beyond past performance and emphasises the importance of prioritising safety.

As part of the suite of measures coming into effect in June 2024, companies will have to deploy video surveillance systems at construction sites for projects valued at $5 million or more. 

The video surveillance systems will facilitate 24-7 surveillance, identification of workplace safety and health (WSH) risks, support incident investigations and corrective actions, and help deter unsafe behaviours. 

With the industry experiencing record-high growth across multiple sectors and more requirements being announced in the foreseeable future, these regulations underscore the overall need for a more holistic and conscientious approach to a safer construction environment for the long term, and with time running out, companies must act fast. 

The improvement of safety standards in Singapore's construction sector is a multifaceted issue that requires ongoing vigilance and commitment from all stakeholders. While there have been positive strides in reducing workplace accidents and promoting safety awareness, the evolving nature of construction activities and the regulatory landscape necessitates continuous adaptation and innovation.

Holistic solutions to safer environments

To ensure a smooth transition, companies must have a clear and holistic view of each site based on a detailed mapping of construction processes and operations with lessons from past projects. Companies must switch gears to mitigate risk and prevent unwanted injuries or fatalities before accidents occur.

From the get-go, firms need to identify potential safety hazards and challenges that workers may encounter, and they need to have a comprehensive plan for the logistics of equipment, vehicles or materials and the overall operations of the site. 

To do so is no mean feat, but it is crucial to every company’s reputation for accident-free, on-time and on-budget delivery. 

Leveraging technology for construction safety

The introduction of measures like the electronic permit-to-work system is a positive development in enhancing safety protocols on Singapore construction sites, but it should not be viewed as a single-step solution for all safety challenges. While digital tools can help to improve process efficiency and data accuracy, they should be complemented by a robust safety culture and proactive risk management practices to ensure the prevention of accidents and injuries. 

The effectiveness of the system depends on continuous monitoring and feedback mechanisms to identify and address emerging safety issues promptly. Therefore, while the electronic system is a valuable tool, companies should ideally be integrating it into a broader safety management framework to achieve sustainable safety outcomes.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) can play a crucial role in identifying and reducing risk in construction safety by providing a comprehensive and visual representation of the entire construction project. When used for safety analysis and risk assessment, data on safety regulations, guidelines, and best practices can be integrated for compliance. This also helps in identifying high-risk areas and ensuring that safety measures are integrated into the design and construction phases.  

By simulating the construction process, including the movement of equipment and materials, potential bottlenecks and safety concerns can be identified and addressed in advance. Post-construction, BIM could also provide a detailed digital model for facility management and maintenance. This includes information on the maintenance requirements of different components, ensuring that safety considerations are maintained throughout the lifecycle of the building.

Looking ahead, the long-term benefits of compliance 

To effectively prepare for the impending changes, construction firms should conduct comprehensive safety audits, assessing current protocols and practices while identifying areas for improvement. As part of this preparation, strategies for engaging and educating the workforce on the forthcoming safety standards are also crucial.

As Singapore moves toward embracing digitalisation and more advanced digital technologies in recent years, there is a significant opportunity to leverage data analytics and predictive modelling to identify and mitigate emerging safety risks proactively at a broader scale. By harnessing the collective expertise and resources of government, industry, and academia, Singapore can continue to lead by example in fostering a culture of safety excellence in the construction sector.

As the Singapore construction sector embraces digitalisation and increasingly advanced technologies, there is a great opportunity to use data analytics and predictive modelling to proactively identify and mitigate emerging safety risks on a larger scale. By bringing together the expertise and resources of the government, industry, and academia, Singapore can continue to lead in promoting a culture of safety excellence in the construction sector.

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